NEW YORK — An aide to Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of fraud in connection with a scheme that included impersonating the then-chief of staff for former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to attract donors to Santos’s campaign for Congress.
Samuel Miele entered his plea in federal court in Long Island to fraud related to illegal collection of a donation to Santos’s 2022 campaign in August 2021. In that instance, he collected money for Santos, then a candidate, by claiming he was seeking the contribution on the McCarthy aide’s behalf, according to a federal indictment.
As part of the plea, Miele has agreed to pay about $650,000 in restitution and forfeiture. The fraud he admitted to involved about $100,000.
Miele’s plea came three months after his arrest and it makes him the second person involved in Santos’s campaign to plead guilty to crimes involving the legislator, who also faces fraud charges.
Santos gained notoriety when after his successful campaign it became known that he lied in a number of personal and professional claims, including about his ethnicity, family hardships, his education and past jobs. After being outed on those assertions and getting indicted, he has refused to resign and recently survived a House vote to expel him from his seat.
Last month, Santos’s legal problems escalated when the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, which also operates in Central Islip, N.Y., filed a superseding indictment that alleged he stole relatives’ identities and used donors’ credit cards. He was previously indicted over alleged wrongdoing including defrauding donors and falsely obtaining unemployment benefits.
Santos has maintained his innocence.
Miele, who has been free on a $150,000 bond since his arrest in August, had been charged by federal prosecutors in New York with wire fraud and identity theft for his role in soliciting donations from contributors to Santos’s 2022 campaign. To do that, he made a fake email account.
Miele approached more than a dozen potential donors, and the staffer earned a commission on donations he brought in, prosecutors said.
“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 Breon Peace said in a statement. “Defrauding potential political contributors undermines our democracy, and we will vigorously prosecute such conduct.”
On Oct. 5, former Santos treasurer Nancy Marks pleaded guilty to filing false reports with the Federal Election Commission.