A former campaign staff member Representative George SantosRN.Y., pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of wire fraud stemming from his work for the embattled congressman.
Samuel Miele, 27, was charged in August with electronic fraud and identity theft for having posed as one of the main assistants of the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, while raising money for the 2022 campaign of the then Santos.
Prosecutors said Miele used the aide’s identity with more than a dozen potential donors, raising money for the candidate while enriching himself through 15% commissions on each donation. In his deposition, Miele also admitted that he unauthorizedly charged credit card contributions to the campaigns of “Candidate #1” – Santos – and other campaigns, as well as himself, prosecutors said.
In a plea form filed with the judge, Miele said that between August and December 2021, “I pretended to be the House Speaker’s chief of staff in some phone calls and emails with potential donors, including an email email on August 19, 2021, which used interstate cables. I did it to help me raise money for the Congressional campaign I was working on.”
“In addition, between November 2020 and January of this year, I caused approximately $100,000 to be charged to the credit cards of various donors without their permission. I used some of those funds as donations to a congressional candidate and others for my own expenses. “Miele said on the form.
Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Miele had “used fraud and deception to steal more than one hundred thousand dollars from his victims, funneling this money into the campaign committees of House candidates and to their own campaign committees.” pockets.”
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors said Miele agreed to pay $109,171 in restitution, $69,136 in forfeiture and $470,000 to a campaign contributor. He also faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced on April 30.
Santos’ attorney, Joe Murray, was in court to observe the proceedings and later declined to comment to NBC New York.
Miele’s attorney, Kevin Marino, did not say whether his client was cooperating with the investigation. “Mr. Miele has accepted responsibility” for his actions and “hopes to put this behind him,” Marino told NBC New York.
Santos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors said Miele sent Santos a letter in 2022 trying to explain his actions. The indictment said that in the letter Miele acknowledged “falsifying” his “identity to a large donor,” but said Miele also described himself as “high risk, high reward in everything I do.”
Last month, Santos’ former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to charges implicating Santos in wrongdoing, including falsifying campaign forms so the candidate could obtain matching funds to which he was not entitled.
Santos, who had been charged in May with 13 criminal counts, was hit with 10 additional charges in a superseding indictment days after Marks’ plea.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges and maintained that he is the victim of a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
Earlier this month, Santos, who acknowledged fabricating and exaggerating parts of his past, survived an effort by his fellow New York House Republicans to expel him from Congress.