LONG ISLAND (CN) — U.S. Representative George Santos’ former campaign fundraiser Samuel Miele pleaded guilty to wire fraud Tuesday after federal prosecutors accused him of impersonating a congressional aide to pick up donations for the congressman, who faces federal charges in the same Central Islip federal courthouse.
Miele was Santos’ campaign fundraiser for the 2020 and 2022 campaign cycles He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and stipulated to committing access device fraud at proceedings in front of U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, who was appointed by George H. W. Bush.
Miele agreed to pay $109, 171 in restitution, $69,136 in forfeiture and another $470,000 to a donor. His sentencing is set for April 30, where he faces up to 20 years in prison, according to a Justice Department press release.
From August to December 2021, prosecutors say Miele solicited campaign contributions by impersonating Dan Meyer, chief of staff to then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in emails and phone messages with potential contributors. As a result, he received donations from over a dozen contributors and received a 15% commission from each one.
In the indictment, which listed four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, prosecutors claim Miele sent Santos a letter admitting he had faked his identity "to a big donor” while describing himself as being “high risk, high reward in everything” he does.
“The defendant used fraud and deceit to steal more than one hundred thousand dollars from his victims, funneling this money into the campaign committees of candidates for the House, and into his own pockets,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement. “Defrauding potential political contributors undermines our democracy, and we will vigorously prosecute such conduct.”
Santos, who represents New York’s Third Congressional District, has been the subject of much controversy after it came to light he lied about large swaths of his background and qualifications while running for office and now faces federal charges including wire fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds. He pleaded not guilty to charges in May, and did the same in October after prosecutors filed a 23-count superseding indictment.
Miele is not the first of Santos’ campaign staff to admit to wrongdoing while helping the congressman run for office. Nancy Marks, Santos' former campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty in early October to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and admitted to making false statements, obstructing the administration of the Federal Election Commission and committing aggravated identity theft.
While Santos has maintained his innocence the House, led by fellow New York Republican Anthony D'Esposito, twice has attempted to expel him from office. But lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against giving Santos the boot after D’Esposito introduced the resolution to expel him in October.
The House Ethics Committee is also expected to announce soon its "next course of action” in its investigation into Santos, an effort announced in June to look into his 2022 congressional campaign and scrutinize any potentially unlawful conduct.
Despite the nearly two dozen criminal counts against him, the Long Island Republican has said he will run again for his House seat next year, even if lawmakers successfully expel him from office.Follow @NikaSchoonover
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