FBI to investigate alleged involvement of George Santos in veteran’s dying dog fundraising scam
The FBI is reportedly investigating allegations that embattled Rep. George Santos (RN.Y.) stole funds raised for life-saving surgery on a disabled veteran’s service dog.
U.S. Navy veteran Richard Osthoff told Politico that two agents representing the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York contacted him and asked for text messages he exchanged with Santos in 2016 about the incident.
Osthoff said he was linked that year to the charity Friends of Pets United, run by Santos under the name Antony Devolder. The veteran was hoping to find the $3,000 he needed to pay for surgery on his service dog, Sapphire, who had a life-threatening stomach tumor.
Osthoff and another New Jersey veteran, retired police sergeant. Michael Boll, told Patch that the now congressman offered to start a GoFundMe page for the dog in May 2016. But once the fundraiser reached its goal, he disappeared with the funds, did they affirmed.
Osthoff said he contacted Santos to schedule the medical procedure; Santos suggested going to another veterinary clinic he knew, who then said she couldn’t operate. After that, Santos became harder to contact and later claimed his charity would use the money for “other dogs,” Osthoff said.
Saphir died the following year.
Osthoff said he is relieved that federal investigators are looking into the case.
“I was afraid what happened to me was too old to prosecute,” he told Politico.
Santos told ABC News on Wednesday that he did not recall ever meeting Osthoff and that federal investigators had not contacted him about the reported investigation.
Santos has previously denied any involvement in the alleged scam, calling reports detailing the incident “shocking” and “crazy”.
Osthoff shared some of the text messages he allegedly exchanged with Santos with Patch.
A November 13, 2016 post allegedly shows Osthoff pleading with Santos to let him take Sapphire to another vet and reminding Santos that the funds were raised in his dog’s name.
But Santos reportedly hit back, saying it was his charity’s “credibility” that made people donate the money.
Santos “voluntarily” resigned from House committees earlier this week, days after the Justice Department signaled it was launching an investigation into the congressman’s campaign finances and told the Federal Exchange Commission to suspend its own investigation.
Santos had been appointed to the science, space and technology committee and the small business committee.
New York Democratic Congressmen also asked the House Ethics Committee is reviewing Santos’ financial information.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has resisted calls to fire Santos, but recently shared terms on which he would seek to remove the congressman.
“If somehow we go through ethics and he broke the law, we will fire him,” he said last month, according to The Hill, without sharing any detail on the chronology of the investigation to which he referred.
Santos is the subject of more local investigations in the United States and also a fraud case in Brazil.