Dr. Jeff Vacirca is shown in January 2013 with an infusion IV pump...

Dr. Jeff Vacirca is shown in January 2013 with an infusion IV pump used for administering the Provenge vaccine to cancer patients at his office in East Setauket. Credit: Newsday File / Daniel Brennan

A prominent Long Island cancer doctor who was among George Santos’ top campaign contributors — giving nearly $50,000 to his associated committees — said he regrets the support, calling the new congressman “one of the best con men I’ve ever met.”

Dr. Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of Port Jefferson Station-based New York Blood & Cancer Specialists, said that during a meeting last summer, Santos appeared interested in the work of a political action committee of Vacirca's that backs increased access to affordable cancer drugs. 

Santos, he said, peppered the conversation with details of his work in the financial sector that later were exposed as false.

“He told us his story: about working for Citibank, that his mom got cancer [and said], ‘I’m 100% on board with what you guys are doing. I want to support you,’” Vacirca said in an interview Sunday, in his first public comments about Santos.

In the weeks after the dinner, Vacirca contributed a total of $38,700 to Santos-allied committees, plus $10,000 to the Nassau County Republican Party’s federal account that was coordinating with the candidate. 

All told, Vacirca and Todd O’Connell, New York Blood & Cancer Specialists' president, donated nearly $100,000 to PACs tied to Santos, according to Federal Election Commission data.

After reading news reports of extensive falsehoods in Santos' work and education history, Vacirca says 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.”

Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Santos, who has admitted fabricating significant parts of his educational and professional background, faces several probes into his campaign and personal finances.

Among issues investigators are focusing on are allegations that Santos, through personal loans to his campaign, served as a straw donor for people who gave large sums of money to his company, and that he falsely logged many campaign expenditures to avoid disclosure requirements.

After The New York Times last month published a story about fabrications in Santos’ resume, Newsday reported Santos-tied campaign committees transferred nearly $200,000 to the Nassau GOP and paid tens of thousands of dollars to newly formed companies with opaque histories and scant record of working for other candidates.

Election law experts said such payments could suggest Santos diverted campaign funds to friends or for personal use.

His congressional office directed Newsday's request for comment Monday to Santos' personal attorney, Joe Murray, who did not respond.

In the Newsday interview on Sunday, Vacirca said Santos should resign or be removed from office.

Vacirca also expressed concern about his ability to find credible candidates committed to reducing the influence of health insurance companies and prescription drug middlemen.

Both, he says, slow the claims approval process for fast-acting cancer drugs while jacking up prices.

In July 2021, Vacirca founded the Conquering Cancer PAC, which he runs with Dr. David Eagle, head of New York Blood & Cancer’s legislative affairs and patient advocacy office.

It has raised nearly $430,000 since then, and spent more than $274,000, Federal Election Commission filings show.

“Our PAC is all about patient care," Vacirca said.

"It hurts all of us,” when candidates are untruthful, Vacirca said.

Vacirca also said the Santos scandal shows the shortcomings of candidate vetting by the national political parties’ campaign arms.

“You don’t know now. Is it all a handwave or a lie, or do they really mean what they say?," Vacirca said of candidates.

“I have to do background checks on everybody?" Vacirca asked. "It sets you back because you don’t know who has credibility.”

Since taking over New York Blood & Cancer Specialists in 2008, Vacirca has expanded the company from a local practice with seven doctors to one with more than 100 physicians across 200 offices on Long Island and in New York City.

The company employs 2,000 people and treats 1 million patients a year, he said.

Vacirca said he became involved in politics in 2013, after the failure of negotiations between Democratic President Barack Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress over raising the federal debt limit led to imposition of a 2% across-the-board cut to Medicare. He worried his practice would have to lay people off.

When Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley was elected to Congress in 2014, Vacirca was a supporter.

Zeldin ran unsuccessfully for New York governor against Democrat Kathy Hochul last year.

In 2020 and 2021, Vacirca treated Zeldin for leukemia. 

"Thank God he’s fine now, but he’s seen the [health care] system and understands in a way that most people don’t," Vacirca said.

Vacirca, who personally and through his PAC supported Zeldin's run for governor last year, contributed to the campaign of Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, a Democrat and a cancer survivor who has worked with New York Blood & Cancer Specialists on re-entry programs for incarcerated individuals.

Vacirca also donated to State Sen. James Skoufis (D-Woodbury), who cosponsored a bill to require doctors who review insurance claims to be qualified in the specialties they're reviewing.

"They're trying to get care to one of their patients, and they've got some doctor in God knows what field making determinations on these specialty claims, and the folks on the ground who care about their patients are rightfully very upset and frustrated by this process," Skoufis said of specialists like Vacirca.

Hochul vetoed the measure last month, saying it would "pull specialists out of health care and into claims review."

Vacirca said he was introduced to Santos last year by Nancy Marks, of Shirley, who has served as campaign treasurer for numerous Republicans, including Zeldin and Santos, as well as for Vacirca's Conquering Cancer PAC.

Explaining the large amount of money he donated to Santos, Vacirca recalled that Marks told him Santos “had more of a need” for money than most other candidates.

When the first reports of fabrications surfaced, Vacirca said he texted Santos.

“What is going on? Is this true?” Vacirca said he asked him.

“He said, ‘This is a smear campaign,’ then I never heard from him again,” Vacirca said. “As more came out, I said, ‘I am not talking to this guy.’”

Vacirca said he has dismissed Marks as treasurer of his PAC, citing the allegations that Santos committees may have engaged in campaign finance improprieties.

Marks did not respond to a request for comment.

While saying he was "appalled" by the allegations, Vacirca suggested Marks could have been deceived by Santos.

“He lied to everyone,” Vacirca said.

A prominent Long Island cancer doctor who was among George Santos’ top campaign contributors — giving nearly $50,000 to his associated committees — said he regrets the support, calling the new congressman “one of the best con men I’ve ever met.”

Dr. Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of Port Jefferson Station-based New York Blood & Cancer Specialists, said that during a meeting last summer, Santos appeared interested in the work of a political action committee of Vacirca's that backs increased access to affordable cancer drugs. 

Santos, he said, peppered the conversation with details of his work in the financial sector that later were exposed as false.

“He told us his story: about working for Citibank, that his mom got cancer [and said], ‘I’m 100% on board with what you guys are doing. I want to support you,’” Vacirca said in an interview Sunday, in his first public comments about Santos.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A Long Island cancer doctor who gave nearly $50,000 to campaign committees tied to Rep. George Santos says he now regrets the support.
  • Dr. Jeff Vacirca, who runs a political action committee that seeks to increase patient access to affordable cancer drugs, said Santos shared details of his work in the financial sector that later were exposed as false.
  • “It’s embarrassing to admit being taken in by someone like him,” Vacirca said.

In the weeks after the dinner, Vacirca contributed a total of $38,700 to Santos-allied committees, plus $10,000 to the Nassau County Republican Party’s federal account that was coordinating with the candidate. 

All told, Vacirca and Todd O’Connell, New York Blood & Cancer Specialists' president, donated nearly $100,000 to PACs tied to Santos, according to Federal Election Commission data.

After reading news reports of extensive falsehoods in Santos' work and education history, Vacirca says 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.”

Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

'It hurts all of us'

Santos, who has admitted fabricating significant parts of his educational and professional background, faces several probes into his campaign and personal finances.

Among issues investigators are focusing on are allegations that Santos, through personal loans to his campaign, served as a straw donor for people who gave large sums of money to his company, and that he falsely logged many campaign expenditures to avoid disclosure requirements.

After The New York Times last month published a story about fabrications in Santos’ resume, Newsday reported Santos-tied campaign committees transferred nearly $200,000 to the Nassau GOP and paid tens of thousands of dollars to newly formed companies with opaque histories and scant record of working for other candidates.

Election law experts said such payments could suggest Santos diverted campaign funds to friends or for personal use.

His congressional office directed Newsday's request for comment Monday to Santos' personal attorney, Joe Murray, who did not respond.

In the Newsday interview on Sunday, Vacirca said Santos should resign or be removed from office.

Vacirca also expressed concern about his ability to find credible candidates committed to reducing the influence of health insurance companies and prescription drug middlemen.

Both, he says, slow the claims approval process for fast-acting cancer drugs while jacking up prices.

In July 2021, Vacirca founded the Conquering Cancer PAC, which he runs with Dr. David Eagle, head of New York Blood & Cancer’s legislative affairs and patient advocacy office.

It has raised nearly $430,000 since then, and spent more than $274,000, Federal Election Commission filings show.

“Our PAC is all about patient care," Vacirca said.

"It hurts all of us,” when candidates are untruthful, Vacirca said.

Vacirca also said the Santos scandal shows the shortcomings of candidate vetting by the national political parties’ campaign arms.

“You don’t know now. Is it all a handwave or a lie, or do they really mean what they say?," Vacirca said of candidates.

“I have to do background checks on everybody?" Vacirca asked. "It sets you back because you don’t know who has credibility.”

Entry into politics

Since taking over New York Blood & Cancer Specialists in 2008, Vacirca has expanded the company from a local practice with seven doctors to one with more than 100 physicians across 200 offices on Long Island and in New York City.

The company employs 2,000 people and treats 1 million patients a year, he said.

Vacirca said he became involved in politics in 2013, after the failure of negotiations between Democratic President Barack Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress over raising the federal debt limit led to imposition of a 2% across-the-board cut to Medicare. He worried his practice would have to lay people off.

When Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley was elected to Congress in 2014, Vacirca was a supporter.

Zeldin ran unsuccessfully for New York governor against Democrat Kathy Hochul last year.

In 2020 and 2021, Vacirca treated Zeldin for leukemia. 

"Thank God he’s fine now, but he’s seen the [health care] system and understands in a way that most people don’t," Vacirca said.

Vacirca, who personally and through his PAC supported Zeldin's run for governor last year, contributed to the campaign of Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, a Democrat and a cancer survivor who has worked with New York Blood & Cancer Specialists on re-entry programs for incarcerated individuals.

Vacirca also donated to State Sen. James Skoufis (D-Woodbury), who cosponsored a bill to require doctors who review insurance claims to be qualified in the specialties they're reviewing.

"They're trying to get care to one of their patients, and they've got some doctor in God knows what field making determinations on these specialty claims, and the folks on the ground who care about their patients are rightfully very upset and frustrated by this process," Skoufis said of specialists like Vacirca.

Hochul vetoed the measure last month, saying it would "pull specialists out of health care and into claims review."

Meeting Santos

Vacirca said he was introduced to Santos last year by Nancy Marks, of Shirley, who has served as campaign treasurer for numerous Republicans, including Zeldin and Santos, as well as for Vacirca's Conquering Cancer PAC.

Explaining the large amount of money he donated to Santos, Vacirca recalled that Marks told him Santos “had more of a need” for money than most other candidates.

When the first reports of fabrications surfaced, Vacirca said he texted Santos.

“What is going on? Is this true?” Vacirca said he asked him.

“He said, ‘This is a smear campaign,’ then I never heard from him again,” Vacirca said. “As more came out, I said, ‘I am not talking to this guy.’”

Vacirca said he has dismissed Marks as treasurer of his PAC, citing the allegations that Santos committees may have engaged in campaign finance improprieties.

Marks did not respond to a request for comment.

While saying he was "appalled" by the allegations, Vacirca suggested Marks could have been deceived by Santos.

“He lied to everyone,” Vacirca said.

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