Campaign material for Republican George Santos, when he was running...

Campaign material for Republican George Santos, when he was running for Congress in the Third District in 2022. Credit: Bloomberg/Jackie Molloy

This story was reported by Scott Eidler, Paul LaRocco and Anastasia Valeeva. It was written by Eidler and LaRocco.

Major Long Island donors to the congressional campaign of George Santos, including prominent wealth managers, investors and the chairman of Nassau County's only public hospital, said they were "misled" and "defrauded" by Santos' fundraising appeals, and some want their money back.

More than a half-dozen prominent local business leaders, speaking publicly for the first time, told Newsday they were deceived by the candidate and presumed, incorrectly, that Republican Party leaders had scrutinized his record and background.

The donors contacted last week said revelations over the past month that Santos lied on his resume, and fabricated stories about his educational, work and ethnic backgrounds, had caused them to question information he gave them when he was soliciting contributions.

"Of course we feel lied to and betrayed,” Iris Maidenbaum, of Lawrence, told Newsday. Her husband, Shalom Maidenbaum, runs Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group, a major tax-challenge company.

The Maidenbaums gave Santos committees a total of nearly $22,000, Federal Election Commission records show.

"Our trust came from not only him as a person. But also, I guess we incorrectly assumed there was a vetting process that may have exposed this before the election,” she said.

A director serving on a corporate board, a top veterinary cardiologist and the mayor of Sands Point are among Long Islanders Santos successfully courted during his two-year campaign to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, Newsday found.

Santos raised $5.5 million over the election cycle — $1.2 million of which came from Nassau and Suffolk County residents, the Newsday analysis shows.

Nassau residents gave nearly $670,000, while about $550,000 came from individual Suffolk donors, state and federal records show.

Matthew Bruderman, a Centre Island financier and chairman of the board that runs Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow; his wife, Kerri Beth; and their son, Trevor, contributed a total of nearly $75,000 to committees tied to Santos, a Newsday analysis of Federal Election Commission and New York State Board of Elections filings shows.

A Bruderman attorney, who declined to be identified, said in a statement that Bruderman and his family were “fraudulently induced” to support Santos, and have formally requested refunds of their contributions.

Bruderman, who also was a major supporter of the Nassau County Republican Committee and Republican Lee Zeldin’s unsuccessful campaign for governor last year, “believes strongly that this kind of deceit is deplorable, undermines public trust in our institutions and Mr. Santos should have no place in public life,” the statement said.

James Metzger, a Bruderman business associate and founder and chief executive of the Garden City-based Whitmore Agency, an insurance brokerage and financial services firm, was another big Santos donor.

Metzger, an All-American lacrosse player at Hofstra University, contributed about $40,000 to Santos committees and the Nassau GOP’s federal account, which coordinated with the Santos campaign, FEC records show.

Nassau Republican leaders presented Santos to Metzger as the “duly nominated” 3rd District candidate, a Metzger spokesman who declined to be identified said in a statement to Newsday.

“Mr. Metzger believes that the misrepresentations made by Mr. Santos to all who supported his campaign demonstrated his total lack of personal integrity," the statement said.

Metzger "also believes strongly that this kind of deceit, from any public figure, be it a Congressional Candidate to a sitting President of the United States, is unacceptable and undermines public trust in our Republic and its institutions,” the statement said.

Maidenbaum, Bruderman and Metzger were among about 30 Nassau and Suffolk residents who along with family members or co-workers contributed $10,000 or more to campaign committees associated with Santos, according to the Newsday analysis.

Santos beat Democrat Robert Zimmerman in November in the race for the open seat in the 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Nassau and Queens.

The Newsday review found the homes of Santos' largest donors largely were concentrated in North Shore communities such as Mill Neck, Locust Valley and Lloyd Harbor.

Significant Suffolk donors resided in communities such as Bohemia and Shirley.

The 3rd District originally included parts of Suffolk, but redistricting placed the district entirely in Nassau and Queens.

Newsday reached out to more than two dozen contributors after developing a list of Long Island ZIP codes associated with donations to Santos’ primary congressional campaign committee, his federal leadership committee, a joint fundraising committee with the Nassau Republican Committee and a state political action committee run by his sister, Tiffany Santos.

Nine donors responded in interviews or statements.

They included Robert Mangi, an insurance executive who contributed nearly $200,000 to the Santos and Nassau committees, and Dr. Jeff Vacirca, who heads a prominent Suffolk-based oncology practice and contributed nearly $50,000.

Vacirca and Todd O’Connell, the practice's president, donated a total of nearly $100,000 to PACs tied to Santos, according to FEC data.

After reading news reports of extensive falsehoods in Santos' work and education history, Vacirca in a Newsday story last week said of Santos: “I have to say, one of the best con men I’ve ever met. It’s embarrassing to admit being taken in by someone like him.”

Others did not respond or declined to comment. Two hung up the phone on a Newsday reporter.

Santos is the subject of federal, state and local investigations since revelations in December that he fabricated much of his back story.

Earlier this month, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Santos acted as a straw donor for others and hid the true sources of funds he provided in loans to his campaign.

On Tuesday, the Santos campaign amended campaign disclosure reports to change the source of a $500,000 loan to his campaign.

In a filing in December, Santos checked a box attesting that the loan came from "Personal Funds of the Candidate." In the filing on Tuesday, Santos left the box unchecked.

Santos blamed his campaign staff for Tuesday's filing.

Although Nassau Republican Party leaders now strongly condemn Santos, they reaped significant benefits during his two-year campaign for Congress.

Newsday reported previously that Santos committees transferred $185,000 to Nassau Republican committees.

Metzger, Mangi, O'Connell and Vacirca contributed to the Nassau GOP's federal account, which then spent money on Santos' campaign operations.

Santos did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The Newsday analysis highlights the success of Santos, then a little-known congressional candidate with roots in Queens, in tapping a network of influential Nassau and Suffolk residents, many of whom give regularly to candidates for office.

Now, many say they feel burned.

"More than the personal humiliation of finding the person you thought was a 'Next Gen' political standard bearer is, in fact, a fraud is the realization that these stunning revelations come with significant collateral damage," Mangi, a Lloyd Harbor resident, said in a statement to Newsday.

Mangi, who runs Garden City-based Northeast Coverages, a wholesale insurance broker, and his wife, Sandra, contributed a total of $197,400 to Santos-tied committees, state and federal records show.

That includes a $150,000 donation Robert Mangi made to Tiffany Santos’ Rise NY PAC on Sept. 10, 2021, FEC filings show.

Mangi didn't address how he met Santos.

But he called his experience "a cautionary tale for everyone, regardless of enrollment, ideology, or their level of campaign support … It will surely have a chilling effect across the political spectrum."

Steve Israel, a Democrat who served in Congress for 16 years, including four years in the 3rd District, said of donors in districts such as Santos': "These are people who know how to make a deal, and how not to be swindled, you would think. They're not easy marks."

Israel, who led the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011-15, said, "my own experience with donors, who were sophisticated and affluent, was that they really knew their stuff. You had to make a convincing case. They weren't easy. You know, they didn't fall prey to sound bites."

Israel, director of the nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University and the owner of Theodore's Books in Oyster Bay, continued: "How they fell prey to this guy's [Santos'] lies is part of the mystery." 

Neil Malhotra is a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business who has written about the mentality of “elite donors.”

Such contributors often are concerned about national issues, he said, and many knew control of the House of Representatives in 2022 could hinge on the outcome of competitive races on Long Island, where there were three open seats, including in the 3rd District.

Regardless of their motivation, those who fall prey to unscrupulous candidates risk possible reputational damage given that the public can access their contributions online, Malhotra said.

“And if you gave to somebody who's a con man, it reflects on your judgment,” Malhotra said.

Many elite donors also give money to candidates in the hopes of gaining access to them on particular issues once they're elected, Stanley Renshon, a political science professor at The CUNY Graduate Center, told Newsday.

“They know they’re buying a hearing,” Renshon said.

If an elected official is exposed as a fraud and ostracized, such access no longer is worth much, Renshon said.

For donors who backed such candidates, "there’s a certain amount of embarrassment," in telling associates or friends, "‘Oh, I talked to him and you know, He’s going to do X, Y and Z.’ ”

Major Santos donors in Suffolk included auto dealer Raymond Tantillo, who along with several family members gave approximately $50,000 to Santos committees, records show.

Tantillo didn’t return a message left at one of his dealerships.

But Raymond Pensabene, of West Sayville, manager of Chevrolet of Smithtown, a Tantillo group dealer in St. James, told Newsday: “Who wouldn’t feel duped with this? It’s a real shame with this situation. I feel very defrauded.”

Pensabene, whose family gave $20,300 to Santos committees, said the 2022 elections were about more than George Santos: “It was just about change. That was really the bottom line."

Of Santos, Pensabene said: “Shame on everyone who vetted people.”

George Kramer, a veterinary cardiologist with Atlantic Coast Veterinary Specialists in Bohemia, and family gave $23,600, FEC filings show. Kramer did not respond to requests for comment.

Vince Pipia, of Dix Hills, whose family gave about $14,000 to Santos or campaign committees tied to him, told Newsday: “Of course I feel duped and betrayed by the whole thing. You’d think there’d be a better vetting process.”

Peter Forman, mayor of the Village of Sands Point, and family gave Santos a total of $11,600 for his 2022 race.

“My wife and I have consistently supported local candidates," including Israel and Democrat Thomas Suozzi, who retired from the 3rd District seat in December, Forman said in a statement to Newsday.

Forman, a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a nonprofit that seeks to strengthen ties between the Jewish community and Republican officials, reflected the feelings of many of the major Santos donors Newsday contacted, saying: “We were misled by Santos’ representations and wish we knew then what we know now, as do many others.”

Mangi predicted donors solicited by candidates will ask: “What do I really know about this person, issue, or PAC?”

Iris Maidenbaum, while not a 3rd District resident, said Santos' refusal to resign was hurting his constituents.

“They believed in him and he’s representing them,” Maidenbaum said. “The whole thing, in a word if you wanted to sum it up, is bizarre."

Major Long Island donors to the congressional campaign of George Santos, including prominent wealth managers, investors and the chairman of Nassau County's only public hospital, said they were "misled" and "defrauded" by Santos' fundraising appeals, and some want their money back.

More than a half-dozen prominent local business leaders, speaking publicly for the first time, told Newsday they were deceived by the candidate and presumed, incorrectly, that Republican Party leaders had scrutinized his record and background.

The donors contacted last week said revelations over the past month that Santos lied on his resume, and fabricated stories about his educational, work and ethnic backgrounds, had caused them to question information he gave them when he was soliciting contributions.

"Of course we feel lied to and betrayed,” Iris Maidenbaum, of Lawrence, told Newsday. Her husband, Shalom Maidenbaum, runs Maidenbaum Property Tax Reduction Group, a major tax-challenge company.

WHAT TO KNOW

Major Long Island donors to George Santos' House campaign told Newsday they were "misled" and "defrauded" by Santos during fundraising appeals.

Prominent local business leaders who each gave Santos' campaign thousands of dollars said they were deceived by the candidate.

The donors said disclosures that Santos fabricated stories about his educational, work and ethnic backgrounds had caused them to question information he gave them when he was soliciting contributions.

The Maidenbaums gave Santos committees a total of nearly $22,000, Federal Election Commission records show.

"Our trust came from not only him as a person. But also, I guess we incorrectly assumed there was a vetting process that may have exposed this before the election,” she said.

A director serving on a corporate board, a top veterinary cardiologist and the mayor of Sands Point are among Long Islanders Santos successfully courted during his two-year campaign to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, Newsday found.

Santos raised $5.5 million over the election cycle — $1.2 million of which came from Nassau and Suffolk County residents, the Newsday analysis shows.

Nassau residents gave nearly $670,000, while about $550,000 came from individual Suffolk donors, state and federal records show.

Matthew Bruderman, a Centre Island financier and chairman of the board that runs Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow; his wife, Kerri Beth; and their son, Trevor, contributed a total of nearly $75,000 to committees tied to Santos, a Newsday analysis of Federal Election Commission and New York State Board of Elections filings shows.

A Bruderman attorney, who declined to be identified, said in a statement that Bruderman and his family were “fraudulently induced” to support Santos, and have formally requested refunds of their contributions.

Bruderman, who also was a major supporter of the Nassau County Republican Committee and Republican Lee Zeldin’s unsuccessful campaign for governor last year, “believes strongly that this kind of deceit is deplorable, undermines public trust in our institutions and Mr. Santos should have no place in public life,” the statement said.

James Metzger, a Bruderman business associate and founder and chief executive of the Garden City-based Whitmore Agency, an insurance brokerage and financial services firm, was another big Santos donor.

Metzger, an All-American lacrosse player at Hofstra University, contributed about $40,000 to Santos committees and the Nassau GOP’s federal account, which coordinated with the Santos campaign, FEC records show.

Nassau Republican leaders presented Santos to Metzger as the “duly nominated” 3rd District candidate, a Metzger spokesman who declined to be identified said in a statement to Newsday.

“Mr. Metzger believes that the misrepresentations made by Mr. Santos to all who supported his campaign demonstrated his total lack of personal integrity," the statement said.

Metzger "also believes strongly that this kind of deceit, from any public figure, be it a Congressional Candidate to a sitting President of the United States, is unacceptable and undermines public trust in our Republic and its institutions,” the statement said.

Maidenbaum, Bruderman and Metzger were among about 30 Nassau and Suffolk residents who along with family members or co-workers contributed $10,000 or more to campaign committees associated with Santos, according to the Newsday analysis.

Santos beat Democrat Robert Zimmerman in November in the race for the open seat in the 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Nassau and Queens.

The Newsday review found the homes of Santos' largest donors largely were concentrated in North Shore communities such as Mill Neck, Locust Valley and Lloyd Harbor.

Significant Suffolk donors resided in communities such as Bohemia and Shirley.

The 3rd District originally included parts of Suffolk, but redistricting placed the district entirely in Nassau and Queens.

Newsday reached out to more than two dozen contributors after developing a list of Long Island ZIP codes associated with donations to Santos’ primary congressional campaign committee, his federal leadership committee, a joint fundraising committee with the Nassau Republican Committee and a state political action committee run by his sister, Tiffany Santos.

Nine donors responded in interviews or statements.

They included Robert Mangi, an insurance executive who contributed nearly $200,000 to the Santos and Nassau committees, and Dr. Jeff Vacirca, who heads a prominent Suffolk-based oncology practice and contributed nearly $50,000.

Vacirca and Todd O’Connell, the practice's president, donated a total of nearly $100,000 to PACs tied to Santos, according to FEC data.

After reading news reports of extensive falsehoods in Santos' work and education history, Vacirca in a Newsday story last week said of Santos: “I have to say, one of the best con men I’ve ever met. It’s embarrassing to admit being taken in by someone like him.”

Others did not respond or declined to comment. Two hung up the phone on a Newsday reporter.

Santos is the subject of federal, state and local investigations since revelations in December that he fabricated much of his back story.

Earlier this month, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Santos acted as a straw donor for others and hid the true sources of funds he provided in loans to his campaign.

On Tuesday, the Santos campaign amended campaign disclosure reports to change the source of a $500,000 loan to his campaign.

In a filing in December, Santos checked a box attesting that the loan came from "Personal Funds of the Candidate." In the filing on Tuesday, Santos left the box unchecked.

Santos blamed his campaign staff for Tuesday's filing.

Although Nassau Republican Party leaders now strongly condemn Santos, they reaped significant benefits during his two-year campaign for Congress.

Newsday reported previously that Santos committees transferred $185,000 to Nassau Republican committees.

Metzger, Mangi, O'Connell and Vacirca contributed to the Nassau GOP's federal account, which then spent money on Santos' campaign operations.

Santos did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Next Gen or fraud?

The Newsday analysis highlights the success of Santos, then a little-known congressional candidate with roots in Queens, in tapping a network of influential Nassau and Suffolk residents, many of whom give regularly to candidates for office.

Now, many say they feel burned.

"More than the personal humiliation of finding the person you thought was a 'Next Gen' political standard bearer is, in fact, a fraud is the realization that these stunning revelations come with significant collateral damage," Mangi, a Lloyd Harbor resident, said in a statement to Newsday.

Mangi, who runs Garden City-based Northeast Coverages, a wholesale insurance broker, and his wife, Sandra, contributed a total of $197,400 to Santos-tied committees, state and federal records show.

That includes a $150,000 donation Robert Mangi made to Tiffany Santos’ Rise NY PAC on Sept. 10, 2021, FEC filings show.

Mangi didn't address how he met Santos.

But he called his experience "a cautionary tale for everyone, regardless of enrollment, ideology, or their level of campaign support … It will surely have a chilling effect across the political spectrum."

Why top donors give

Steve Israel, a Democrat who served in Congress for 16 years, including four years in the 3rd District, said of donors in districts such as Santos': "These are people who know how to make a deal, and how not to be swindled, you would think. They're not easy marks."

Israel, who led the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011-15, said, "my own experience with donors, who were sophisticated and affluent, was that they really knew their stuff. You had to make a convincing case. They weren't easy. You know, they didn't fall prey to sound bites."

Israel, director of the nonpartisan Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University and the owner of Theodore's Books in Oyster Bay, continued: "How they fell prey to this guy's [Santos'] lies is part of the mystery." 

Neil Malhotra is a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business who has written about the mentality of “elite donors.”

Such contributors often are concerned about national issues, he said, and many knew control of the House of Representatives in 2022 could hinge on the outcome of competitive races on Long Island, where there were three open seats, including in the 3rd District.

Regardless of their motivation, those who fall prey to unscrupulous candidates risk possible reputational damage given that the public can access their contributions online, Malhotra said.

“And if you gave to somebody who's a con man, it reflects on your judgment,” Malhotra said.

Many elite donors also give money to candidates in the hopes of gaining access to them on particular issues once they're elected, Stanley Renshon, a political science professor at The CUNY Graduate Center, told Newsday.

“They know they’re buying a hearing,” Renshon said.

If an elected official is exposed as a fraud and ostracized, such access no longer is worth much, Renshon said.

For donors who backed such candidates, "there’s a certain amount of embarrassment," in telling associates or friends, "‘Oh, I talked to him and you know, He’s going to do X, Y and Z.’ ”

Support from Suffolk County

Major Santos donors in Suffolk included auto dealer Raymond Tantillo, who along with several family members gave approximately $50,000 to Santos committees, records show.

Tantillo didn’t return a message left at one of his dealerships.

But Raymond Pensabene, of West Sayville, manager of Chevrolet of Smithtown, a Tantillo group dealer in St. James, told Newsday: “Who wouldn’t feel duped with this? It’s a real shame with this situation. I feel very defrauded.”

Pensabene, whose family gave $20,300 to Santos committees, said the 2022 elections were about more than George Santos: “It was just about change. That was really the bottom line."

Of Santos, Pensabene said: “Shame on everyone who vetted people.”

George Kramer, a veterinary cardiologist with Atlantic Coast Veterinary Specialists in Bohemia, and family gave $23,600, FEC filings show. Kramer did not respond to requests for comment.

Vince Pipia, of Dix Hills, whose family gave about $14,000 to Santos or campaign committees tied to him, told Newsday: “Of course I feel duped and betrayed by the whole thing. You’d think there’d be a better vetting process.”

'Wish we knew then what we know now'

Peter Forman, mayor of the Village of Sands Point, and family gave Santos a total of $11,600 for his 2022 race.

“My wife and I have consistently supported local candidates," including Israel and Democrat Thomas Suozzi, who retired from the 3rd District seat in December, Forman said in a statement to Newsday.

Forman, a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a nonprofit that seeks to strengthen ties between the Jewish community and Republican officials, reflected the feelings of many of the major Santos donors Newsday contacted, saying: “We were misled by Santos’ representations and wish we knew then what we know now, as do many others.”

Mangi predicted donors solicited by candidates will ask: “What do I really know about this person, issue, or PAC?”

Iris Maidenbaum, while not a 3rd District resident, said Santos' refusal to resign was hurting his constituents.

“They believed in him and he’s representing them,” Maidenbaum said. “The whole thing, in a word if you wanted to sum it up, is bizarre."

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Fire rips through Amityville home … Top LI high schools … Knicks take 2-0 lead Credit: Newsday

Man who drove car off cliff due in court ... Fire rips through Amityville home ... Trump on trial ... Lego camp

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