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Representative George Santos denies wrongdoing in ATM fraud scheme


Representative George Santos on Friday dismissed allegations of fraud by a convicted Brazilian who said the New York Republican was the mastermind behind a 2017 credit card skimming scheme.

“I’m innocent. I’ve never done anything criminal and I’m not the mastermind of anything,” Santos told reporters when asked about a sworn affidavit of Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha obtained by Politico and released Thursday. “The story is wrong.”

Trelha pleaded guilty in 2017 to an “access device fraud” charge in federal court in Seattle for a scam involving a card skimmer who lifted ATM card numbers and passwords. He served about six months in prison before being deported to Brazil, according to court records.

According to court documents, Trelha told police at the time of his arrest that his role was to install the skimming devices and then send the recorded information to the operation’s leaders in Brazil.

In the March 7 affidavit whose recipients reportedly included the FBI and the Secret Service, Trelha claimed that Santos was his partner and the person who taught him how to clone ATMs and credit cards and use skimming devices.

The Secret Service confirmed to NBC News that they had received Trelha’s sworn statement, but declined further comment.

When contacted for comment, an FBI spokesperson said, “In accordance with our usual practice, the FBI does not confirm, deny, or otherwise comment on information that we may or may not receive from the public.”

Santos’ involvement in the ATM fraud case was first reported by CBS News.

Representative George Santos at the Capitol in Washington, DC
Representative George Santos at the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 24, 2023.Francis Chung/POLITICO via AP File

Trelha said in his affidavit that he was “appearing today to state that the person responsible for the crime of credit card fraud when I was arrested was George Santos”, noting that he had recently seen Santos in television.

Since his election in November, Santos has admitted to lying about his background, his finances have been the subject of multiple police inquiries and he is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

Responding to questions about the ATM allegations, Santos said he had been “an asset to law enforcement in Seattle. I helped them with the case. I helped them bring down a series of criminals and I’m very proud of that.”

He also said he spoke to unidentified Seattle law enforcement on Thursday. Asked by NBC News if he had been assured he would not be charged in the case, he replied, “I didn’t say that.”

“I told them about the case. We looked into the case yesterday. I haven’t been guaranteed anything but I’m very confident I can fight this one. It’s very easy,” he said. said Friday.

The FBI’s field office in Seattle said it “does not comment on the role of informants in their investigations.”

A lawyer who assisted Trelha with her affidavit did not respond to a request for comment.

Kate Santaliz And Lewis Kamb contributed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.