U.S. Rep. George Santos leaves the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip, New York, May 10, 2023.
Barry Williams | New York Daily News | Getty Images
A man who was a paid campaign fundraiser for Rep. George Santos was indicted in New York on federal criminal charges related to his allegedly impersonating a top aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he solicited donations for Santos.
The fundraiser, Samuel Miele, allegedly sent a letter to Santos Sept. 26 of last year “in which he admitted to ‘faking my identity to a big donor,’ but stated that he was ‘high risk, high reward in everything I do,’ ” according to the indictment in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Miele, who raised money for Santos’ campaigns in 2020 and 2022, was charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in the six-page indictment unsealed Wednesday.
Miele, 27, is accused of pretending to be McCarthy’s aide in order to get campaign donations for Santos from more than a dozen potential contributors, while also enriching himself via 15% commissions on each donation.
His arrest comes three months after the New York Republican lawmaker was criminally charged in the same court with fraud, theft, money laundering and making false statements.
Santos, who was first elected in 2022, represents a House district that covers parts of Queens in New York City, and Nassau County in Long Island. It is the wealthiest congressional district in New York state, and one of the wealthiest in the nation.
After his election, Santos was exposed for having lied repeatedly about his family, his education and his work experience.
CNBC reported in January that Miele had made calls and sent emails to would-be donors claiming to be Dan Meyer, McCarthy’s chief of staff, during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.
The indictment says that between August and December 2021, Miele “falsely and without authorization impersonated” a person who was “a high-ranking aide to a member of the House with leadership responsibilities.” At the time, McCarthy was the House minority leader.
Miele impersonated that person “for the purpose of soliciting contributions to the campaign and enriching himself through commissions earned,” the indictment says.
As part of the alleged scam, Miele created an email account using the first letter and full last name of McCarthy’s aide, and signed the emails with the aide’s full name and title.
Miele did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
His lawyer Kevin Marino told CNBC, “Mr. Miele is not guilty of these charges,” adding that his client “looks forward to complete vindication at trial as soon as possible.”
John Marzulli, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment.
Miele was arraigned on the indictment and pleaded not guilty. He was released on $150,000 bail.
McCarthy, a California Republican, has defended Santos’ right to continue serving in the House even as he fights his own criminal charges. With a narrow majority in the House and a restive caucus, McCarthy has had to rely on Santos’ vote in order to pass legislation more than once this year.
Democrats have made political hay out of Santos’ legal woes.
Rep. Dan Goldman, a Democrat who represents a district covering lower Manhattan and part of Brooklyn, blasted McCarthy for not turning on the troubled Republican.
“According to a federal indictment, George Santos paid someone to impersonate Kevin McCarthy’s chief of staff to raise money, yet McCarthy continues to protect Santos,” Goldman wrote.
“Pathetic and shameful.”
In a court filing Wednesday, prosecutors notified two judges in the Eastern District Court that the criminal cases against Santos and Miele “may be presumptively related because the facts of each case arise out of overlapping events.”
Because the cases are related, prosecutors wrote, it “may be appropriate” to reassign them so that one judge is handling both which “may result in a significant savings of judicial resources and serve the interests of justice.”
— Additional reporting by CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger and Brian Schwartz