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What does George Santos’ ex-campaign treasurer Nancy Marks’ guilty plea mean for her criminal defense?

Nature

The Justice Department’s announcement this week of a guilty plea from Long Island-based Republican George Santos’ former campaign treasurer signaled that the federal fraud case against the congressman is strong, according to legal experts.

Nancy Marks appears to have had extensive knowledge of the thousands of dollars flowing in and out of Santos’ campaign accounts, making her the subject of federal scrutiny.

George Santos
Nancy Marks leaves federal court, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Central Islip, N.Y. Marks, the former campaign treasurer for U.S. Rep. George Santos, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and implicated Republican New York charged in court with submitting false campaign finance reports.

Mary Altaffer / AP


Marks, who was a top financial official during Santos’ congressional campaign, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, which included wire fraud, falsification of records and identity theft, according to court documents.

“No matter what anyone says, Marks’ plea is bad news for George Santos” whether or not she cooperates with the government, says Brett Kappel, an attorney with the Washington-based law firm Harmon Curran and an expert in government ethics and campaign finance issues.

In pleading guilty to the criminal information, she admitted that she and Santos added nonexistent donations from her friends and family in order to falsely inflate her campaign’s fundraising totals to qualify for help from the National Republican Party.

“Marks did this in an attempt to create the impression that the campaign committee was stronger financially than it was,” according to the criminal information.

Marks admitted in court documents to falsely attesting that Santos gave his campaign a $500,000 loan when he did not, in order to make it appear that his campaign was more financially successful than it was. was not.

“By the nature of her plea, she implicates him,” said Randall Eliason, a law professor at George Washington University. “One way or another, the government is going to use this information in its case.”

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York alleged that Marks and an anonymous 2022 congressional candidate-turned-congressman — who CBS News identified as Santos — submitted false financial reports to the Federal Election Commission that inflated the campaign fundraising figures in an effort to qualify. for certain perks, benefits, and support from Republican Party leaders.


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Although it is unclear in court documents whether Marks’ plea deal requires her to cooperate with prosecutors, her attorney said outside the courthouse that she will testify in the Santos case if she was subpoenaed.

Legal experts told CBS News that his guilty plea could indicate that the government’s case against Santos could gain momentum.

“The fact that the Justice Department hasn’t asked him to cooperate may indicate that they already have so much documentary evidence that they don’t need his testimony,” Kappel says. “The pressure on Santos to plead will now increase exponentially.”

Marks was charged in the same case as Santos, and legal experts say details included in his case could indicate more charges could be brought against a member of Congress.

Marks and Santos, according to plea documents, allegedly lied about a loan they claimed Santos gave to his campaign in an effort to boost the campaign’s prospects before the election. By simply identifying Santos as “co-conspirator #1,” prosecutors wrote that he “did not make the reported loans and, in fact, did not have the funds necessary to make such loans to the era”.

Santos has refused to resign his seat, despite facing federal charges and an ongoing investigation by prosecutors. House Ethics Committee on his alleged misconduct. However, Marks’ plea may require further review by the Capitol, according to Professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Marymount University Law School.

“All his finances are going to be put under a microscope. With a loved one admitting guilt, it will be difficult for him to say he followed the rules,” she said.

And now that prosecutors continue to pressure him, Kappel says Santos may need to use his congressional seat at the negotiating table. “He has only one card to play: agree to resign his seat in exchange for a shorter prison sentence.”

In April 2022, according to Marks’ court filings, the Santos campaign posted false fundraising totals and reported to national party officials and the FEC that Santos had loaned his campaign $500,000, an attestation that Marks admitted in court documents she signed. .

Investigators also alleged in the criminal information to which Marks pleaded guilty that she, Santos and others were aware in 2021 of a $250,000 fundraising threshold that the campaign had to meet to qualify for the support from the Republican Party. When they realized they did not have the necessary funds, prosecutors say, the two men “conspired and agreed to falsely inflate the campaign committee’s fundraising totals, including … in public filings with the FEC.”

And in an alleged attempt to prove fake campaign funds, court documents claim text messages revealed a list of names and family members of Marks and Santos as well as the alleged campaign contributions they made . “None of the family members… had made, nor had ever made, the listed contributions,” court records state, but were nonetheless reported to the FEC in a 2021 year-end report.

Santos was indicted by a federal grand jury in May on seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, two counts of making material false statements to the House of Representatives and one count of theft of public funds.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has consistently denied any wrongdoing. Santos’ congressional office declined to comment on the matter and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

The New York representative has also been dogged by allegations that he lied about his past experience to boost his chances of being elected to Congress in 2022.

Over the past year, CBS News has made several attempts to speak with Marks and discuss her involvement in the Santos campaign, visiting the library in Long Island, New York, where she is a board member. ‘administration.

Marks’ attorney did not respond to emails or calls for comment. It is unclear from court documents whether there is a cooperative agreement between Marks and prosecutors in the plea deal.

Michael Kaplan contributed reporting.

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