Rep. George Santos Set to Appear Federal Court on Fraud and Money Laundering Charges

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. Rep. George Santos is set to return to court Friday for the first time since pleading not guilty last month to charges that he duped donors, stole from his campaign, collected fraudulent unemployment benefits and lied to Congress about being a millionaire.

The New York Republican, known for fabricating key parts of his life story, is free awaiting trial. He is scheduled to go before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert in a Long Island courthouse at noon. The hearing is expected to focus on the timing of future court dates as the case against the Republican congressman moves forward.

Federal prosecutors have charged Santos with 13 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Taken together, the allegations suggest Santos relied on "repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself," according to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace.

Santos has condemned the federal investigation as a "witch hunt," vowing to not only remain in Congress but to seek reelection. Republican leaders have urged Santos not to run again but have deferred efforts to expel the freshman representative that could narrow their slim majority.

Federal prosecutors say Santos misused funds that he raised for his campaign on personal expenses, including designer clothes and credit cards.

He is also accused of lying about his finances on congressional disclosure forms and obtaining unemployment benefits while making $120,000 as regional director of an investment firm, which was later shut down over allegations that it was a Ponzi scheme.

As part of his bond agreement, Santos must notify the court if he plans to travel outside of New York or Washington, D.C. He said he received permission to do so this week before flying to El Paso, Texas, where he called for increased border security and brushed off questions about the federal investigation.

"I might have my fair share of embroilments that the media seems to like," he said. "That's fair, but I ran to get stuff done."