George Santos Hit by Most Damning Fraud Accusation Yet

George Santos has been accused of orchestrating "a credit-card fraud operation" by Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, his former roommate, who was imprisoned and deported from the U.S. over his own role in the scheme.

In a sworn declaration sent to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York and the U.S. Secret Service, Trelha claimed Santos had taught him how to "skim card information and how to clone cards," "put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines," and provided him with the necessary equipment to do this.

Santos, who flipped a New York district for the Republicans in November, has come under bipartisan pressure to resign after it emerged he fabricated much of his backstory.

In an interview with TalkTV's Piers Morgan, Santos admitted he'd "been a terrible liar," but insisted his motivation was "getting accepted by the [Republican] party," rather than "tricking the people."

Trelha moved into a Florida apartment in November 2016, according to leasing documents seen by Politico. In 2017, he was arrested for felony access device fraud in Seattle, to which he pled guilty, and spend seven months in prison before being deported to Brazil the following year.

Newsweek has contacted Santos for comment by telephone and email.

George Santos pictured in Washington D.C.
George Santos (R-NY) walking to a closed-door GOP caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol January 10, 2023 in Washington, DC. Santos has been accused of masterminding a credit card fraud scam by a former roommate, who went to prison over the scheme. Drew Angerer/GETTY

However, according to Trelha's sworn declaration, sent out on Wednesday, Santos was the real mastermind behind the scheme.

In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by Politico, Trelha said: "In 2016, I met Santos when I rented a room in his apartment in Florida.

"That is when and where I learned from him how to clone ATM and credit cards.

"Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards. He gave me the material and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines."

Trelha added Santos: "Gave me the card skimming and cloning machines, he taught me how to use them."

He then flew to Seattle, where he was arrested while stealing "credit card information from ATM terminals."

The convicted fraudster added his deal with Santos was "50 percent for him and 50 percent for me."

After he was arrested, Trelha said Santos visited him in prison, where he "told me not to say anything about him."

He added: "Santos threatened friends in Florida that I must not say that he was my boss."

Trelha also claimed Santos stole money that was made available for his bail, and declared himself willing to "speak with any American government investigator."

Speaking to Newsweek, Rachel Fiset, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney and co-founder of Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo, said the number of investigations that Santos is now facing could make an indictment less likely.

Fiset said: "The allegations made against Santos regarding ATM fraud are fairly vague and are unlikely to amount to charges against him. It appears the actions upon which they are based are from 2017 and potentially outside of the statute of limitations. This is, however, another fraudulent scheme for which he has been implicated.

"The various allegations of fraudulent and criminal activity against him come from several different jurisdictions and can make the investigations into Santos' potentially criminal activity less coordinated, which can make actual indictments less likely," Fiset added. "At this point, the real question is what Congress will do as these and other allegations relating to illegal conduct continue to mount."

Earlier this month, the House Ethics Committee appointed a panel to investigate Santos over a number of accusations relating to his 2022 congressional campaign. It will also look into a former volunteer's claim that the House Republican targeted him with sexual harassment, which Santos has denied.