Rep. George Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) is contesting a legal challenge from nearly a dozen media outlets seeking the identities of the individuals who secured a bond to free him following his arrest for wire fraud and money laundering last month, arguing that the names should be kept confidential to ensure their safety.
Attorney Joseph Murray filed a letter Monday, saying “the suretors are likely to suffer great distress, may lose their jobs, and God forbid, may suffer physical injury,”
“There is little doubt that the suretors will suffer some unnecessary form of retaliation if their identities and employment are revealed,” Murray wrote to U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields.
The letter followed a deadline Shields gave Santos to respond to motions filed May 23 by The New York Times and two days later from a consortium of media outlets, including Newsday.
At his May 10 arraignment, prosecutors said the first-term congressman from Queens had three people willing to sign the $500,000 bond for his release, but only one was available that day. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Harris told Shields that, as of Santos’ arraignment, prosecutors knew the identity of two of the individuals and they were willing to give him until the end of the following week to produce the signatures of all three.
In his letter Monday, Murray said the third person dropped out after witnessing the “media frenzy” around the embattled congressman’s indictment.
“As the media frenzy progressively got worse our suretors grew very fearful and concerned,” Murray wrote.
Murray included several exhibits to support his argument showing alleged threats against the congressman. He also included a letter from the House Ethics Committee also seeking to learn their identities.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York told Newsday May 18 that Santos’ bond proceeding was held under seal and no public records were available to identify the suretors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office took no position on the media motions in a letter filed Friday.
The charges against Santos allege he orchestrated a series of schemes while running for Congress, including ripping off political donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits authorized under COVID-19 even though he had a job and lying on his congressional financial disclosure forms.
The Republican who represents New York's 3rd Congressional District, which includes parts of Nassau and Queens, is charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives as part of schemes prosecutors said began in 2020. Santos faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the top counts if convicted and the potential forfeiture of his assets.