By: Ava Mychel Rodriguez ’24
When George Santos was running to be the U.S. representative for New York’s 3rd Congressional District in November 2022, his backstory seemed to be quite regular, even following an old rags to riches trope.
However, since winning the midterm election and assuming office on Jan 3, 2023, nothing about Santos appears as it seems.
Claiming to be an openly gay child of Brazilian immigrants, who rose to the world of Wall Street before entering politics, 34-year-old Santos is described as the “full embodiment of the American Dream,” according to the BBC. But troubling inconsistencies in Santos’s past makes deciphering the Republican congressman’s life story difficult.
Born on July 22, 1988 to Brazilian immigrants Fátima Aziza Caruso Horta Devolver and Gercino António dos Santos Jr., Santos says he grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. Santos also has a younger sister, Tiffany Lee Devolder Santos.
“Both his mother and father are immigrants to the United States from Brazil,” his website said. “They came to the US in search of the American dream. Today George lives that dream based on the foundations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Additionally, Santos’ website claims that his grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine and settled in Belgium, before fleeing to Brazil to avoid persecution once again during WWII. This statement is actually one of Santos’ lies.
Santos’ grandparents are actually Catholic, and never fled the Holocaust. Santos said he never claimed to be Jewish, but “Jew-ish”: his way of saying he is of Jewish origin, in a defense statement to The New York Post.
This defense has also proven to be a lie, as Santos did say he was Jewish, and even invented a previous Jewish family name to fundraise off of.
Continuing on Santos’ lineage, his mother lived in Florida as a migrant worker to pick beans in 1985, before moving to New York City to work as a housekeeper, cook, and nanny. Santos’ father was a house painter.
Santos claims to have dual citizenship in the United States and Brazil; however a Brazilian court described him as American in 2013.
As for education, Santos holds a GED. He said in 2019 and 2020 that he attended the Horace Mann School, which is an elite preparatory school in the Bronx, but the school says they have no record of Santos’ attendance. Santos has also said he graduated from Baruch College, which the New York City university denies.
Santos even went so far to say that he graduated with a master’s in business administration from New York University. A former acquaintance of Santos’, Peter Hamilton, said that Santos once did not recognize the name of the business school at NYU that he allegedly attended.
Around 2008, Santos moved to Brazil, where his mother was living at the time. According to two acquaintances of Santos, he competed as a drag queen, under the name Kitara Rivache, in Brazilian Beauty Pageants.
Verifying this statement, journalist João Fragah said he interviewed Santos on video, while he was performing as Kitara Ravache. Additionally, the Brazilian news program Fantástico published a video of Santos allegedly dancing in drag in a 2007 parade.
On Jan 19, 2023, Santos denied ever having been a drag queen. Calling the allegations “categorically false,” Santos later said that he was “just young and having fun at a festival.”
When in Brazil, an acquaintance paid Santos and his mom to play bingo, a type of illegal gambling (not to be confused with American bingo). Santos left Brazil during an ongoing check fraud case investigation and moved back to New York in 2011.
Between Oct 2011 to July 2012, Santos worked as a customer service representative at a call center for Dish Network in College Point, Queens. During this time, Santos lived modestly in Queens, according to friends, and would take extra roommates to make rent.
However, Santos would lie about his family, wealth and history to the people around him. One former roommate, named Gregory Morey-Parker described these incongruities.
“You’re sitting here bragging about all this money you’re making,” Morey-Parker said to The New York Times. “Then why is your mother a housekeeper?”
As for his mother, Santos has also concocted many lies. Saying she was the “first female executive at a major financial institution,” who worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, Santos said she died a few years after surviving the 9/11 attacks.
Interestingly, Santos’ mother could not have survived 9/11, as she did not even live in the US at the time. On her 2003 visa application to return to the US from Brazil, she wrote that she had not been in the US since 1999, and that she was a cook.
Although Santos’ mother is dead, she never held a financial position. A priest at the Santos’ Catholic church recalled that the family could not afford a funeral for her in 2016.
“It’s quite insensitive to rehash my mother’s legacy. She wasn’t one to mislead me…I stay convinced that’s the truth,” Santos said in an interview with Piers Morgan.
Santos would even reportedly brag about “lavish” houses in Nantucket, Brazil, and New York. Although contrastingly, The New York Times discusses Santos, his mother and his sister being evicted after owing three months of rent.
“The parties reached an agreement, but the family was evited in August after the landlord said they had not paid on time, court records show,” The New York Times said.
Many court records additionally show Santos in debt, owing money to a previous landlord and Discover Bank.
In 2018, Santos began becoming politically active.
Advocating prior for more local issues, Santos prepared to launch his first campaign for Congress in 2019. But an emerging divorce case sent Santos back to court.
Santos married a woman in 2012 in Manhattan, although said to live with men starting in 2013. His unnamed wife filed for divorce in June 2019, which Mr. Santos did not contest, according to The New York Times.
Currently, Santos is married to a man named Matt, but it is unclear when they married.
In Jan 2020, shortly after launching his campaign in Nov 2019, Santos began working for Harbor City Capital, a Florida-based alternative investment firm. A year and a half later, The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit accusing the company of running a $17 million dollar Ponzi scheme.
In June 2020, while still in his first run for Congress under the name George Devolder, Santos opened an office for Harbor City Capital in Midtown, Manhattan. The next month, he became the firm’s New York Regional Director.
While Santos is not mentioned in the lawsuit, many of his colleagues are, and he denies knowing anything about it.
After leaving Harbor City due to “conflicts and political activities,” Santos founded the Devolder Organization, which he claims is how he earned his wealth. Giving inconsistent explanations as to what Devolder Organizations actually does, Santos essentially said it was a family-owned company that managed $80 million in assets.
Devolder Organizations was registered in Florida, although based in New York, and was dissolved in Sept 2022 for failing to file annual reports.
In 2020, Santos ran as a Republican for the United States House of Representatives in New York’s 3rd congressional district. Santos was defeated by Democratic incumbent Thomas Suozzi, but Santos would not accept defeat, citing voter fraud.
Santos equated his situation to Trump’s 2020 election loss and was apparently at Trump’s speech prior to the Jan 6 riot and insurrection. Later, Santos denied ever having been there and called it a “sad, dark day.”
Santos eventually ran again in 2022 for the same position. Due to Suozzi running for the gubernatorial campaign, higher chances were given to Santos.
At this point, questions of Santos’ resume aroused, especially as Republicans wanted to donate to his campaign. Requests for his resume were shot down by Santos, calling them “invasive.”
Santos won the 2022 midterm election and is currently the Republican congressman for New York’s 3rd congressional district.
Since becoming a House Republican, Santos’ embellished past has become a hot topic for news articles, and his actions have become subject to viral Tik Toks.
For example, one Tik Tok of Santos giving seemingly home-made cupcakes to many news reporters became infamous on the social media platform.
After a slew of discrepancies, Santos has yet to fully step down. He temporarily recused himself from serving on congressional committees, due to the ongoing investigations surrounding him, on Tuesday, Jan 31.
On Feb 9, 2023, a group of House Democrats, led by Robert Garcia, filed a resolution to expel Santos from Congress. To do so, it would require the support of two-thirds of House members to pass.
At the 2023 State of the Union address, Senator Mitt Romney told Santos, “you don’t belong here,” as he passed down the aisle.
But Santos had a response of his own.
“Tell that to the 142,000 who voted for me,” Santos said.