The Santos Scandal Doesn't Take Time Off For National Holidays
From the very beginning of our coverage of the still unfolding-- and still multiplying-- George Santos scandals, we tried to make four relevant points, aside from Santos being a MAGA Republican:
Yes, all the gratuitous lying was kind of funny
He committed myriad crimes great and small
He was a vessel for anyone who would give him money (SBF and the Kremlin included)
He is probably not an American citizen
The funny lies can’t get him booted from Congress or thrown into prison, although they are really all that the mainstream media wanted to cover because… well, they’re funny and people like funny. And the rest is complicated and takes work. So the rest of it was generally ignored… until now. Now there’s a George Santos feeding frenzy and… as we noted back in December, at some point he’s got to be thinking about seeking asylum in Russia. Let’s start there. Did the Kremlin really buy itself an American congressman? Is that why Kevin McCarthy— desperate to keep Santos in the House for his vote— assure the media that Santos would not be allowed anywhere near any U.S. secrets?
This morning Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rosalind Helderman reported that Santos “has deeper ties than previously known to a businessman who cultivated close links with a onetime Trump confidant and who is the cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to video footage and court documents. Andrew Intrater and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos’ main campaign committee and tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Intrater’s cousin is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in the Russian energy industry.”
None of that is news to anyone who’s been following along at DWT. But this is: “The relationship between Santos and Intrater goes beyond campaign contributions, according to a statement made privately by Santos in 2020 and a court filing the following year in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, where Santos worked for more than a year. Taken together, the evidence suggests Santos may have had a business relationship with Intrater as Santos was first entering politics in 2020. It also shows, according to the SEC filing, that Intrater put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Santos’ onetime employer, Harbor City, which was accused by regulators of running a Ponzi scheme… Ties between Santos, 34, and Intrater, 60, reflect the ways Santos found personal and political support on his path to public office.”
Santos is probably not an American citizen (see below), but Intrater— whose name sounds like it comes from a comic book about spies and who was, of course, born the Soviet Union— is. Until Santos came along, Intrater was best known for funneling a million dollars from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg to Trump through Michael Cohen, for contributing another $250,000 to the Trump inaugural scam, for contributing to the Stormy Daniels hush money caper and for contributing Kremlin cash to Madison Cawthorn’s failed reelection campaign.
Stanley-Becker and Helderman reported that “While Intrater is a U.S. citizen, his company, the investment firm Columbus Nova [now renamed Sparrow Capital, the American affiliate of Russia’s Renova Group, owned by Vekselberg], has historically had extensive ties to the business interests of his Russian cousin. As recently as 2018, when Vekselberg was sanctioned by the Treasury Department, his conglomerate was Columbus Nova’s largest client, the company confirmed to The Post that year. Intrater’s interactions in 2016 and 2017 with Michael Cohen, who at the time was working as a lawyer for Donald Trump, were probed during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between Trump and the Kremlin.” OK, enter George Santos:
In 2020, when Santos was tasked by Harbor City with locating investors in New York, he claimed in a Harbor City meeting held over Zoom that Intrater’s investment firm, Columbus Nova, was a “client” of his, according to footage obtained by the Washington Post.
He made the comment during a discussion of the difficulties of residential real estate investing, in particular for investors who put money into the 1,400-foot tall tower at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan, which for a time was the tallest residential building in the world. Intrater did not respond to a question about whether he or Columbus Nova was involved in the project.
“You might know who they are,” Santos added in the company meeting, referring to Columbus Nova. “They’ve made the news on several occasions. They were heavily involved with the Russia probe. Unjustified.”
“But they’re a real estate company,” Santos added. “They’re legitimate.”
…Harbor City was able to land a $625,000 deposit from a company registered in Mississippi that identifies Intrater as its lone officer, according to an exhibit included in the SEC’s complaint against Harbor City. The alleged deposit, which is undated, is included in a chart that lists several entities that the SEC says made payments to Harbor City.
The Mississippi company, FEA Innovations, is registered to Intrater, according to secretary of state records. Registration documents include no other officers or directors and identify Intrater’s address as the same one used by Columbus Nova on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Columbus Nova is now known as Sparrow Capital.
In the SEC action, initiated in April 2021, regulators accused Harbor City and its founder of running a “classic Ponzi scheme”— promising investors reliable profit and instead bilking them out of millions.
…After Harbor City’s assets were frozen, and with assistance from a fellow former Harbor City employee, Santos in 2021 formed a company, the Devolder Organization, that paid him at least $3.5 million over the next two years, according to Florida business records and financial disclosure forms he filed as a candidate. Santos loaned his campaign more than $700,000 but did not report any income from Harbor City despite having been paid by the company as recently as April 2021.
Details of Santos’s tenure at Harbor City were confirmed by a court-appointed lawyer overseeing liquidation of the company’s assets.
Columbus Nova became a subject of interest for the Mueller investigation as prosecutors probed the ties forged by Intrater and his company with Cohen, a confidant of Trump’s at the time.
Intrater donated $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to campaign finance records, and attended the 2017 inaugural, along with Vekselberg. The Washington Post has reported that the two men encountered Cohen at the inauguration. Not long after, Columbus Nova began paying Cohen as part of a contract to recruit new investors for the company, The Post reported. Court records show the payments totaled $583,000.
Court records also show that Cohen and Intrater exchanged more than 1,000 calls and text messages between November 2016 and November 2017. Intrater donated $35,000 to attend a 2017 fundraiser for Trump’s reelection, attending at Cohen’s invitation, The Post has reported.
…Vekselberg and his company, Renova, were sanctioned by the Treasury Department in April 2018, cited for benefiting from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “malign activity around the globe.” In April 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vekselberg’s $90 million yacht was seized by Spanish authorities at the request of the United States.
Columbus Nova has long been described as closely associated with the Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate run by Vekselberg. As recently as 2017, a website for Renova Group listed Columbus Nova as one of its companies, and Columbus Nova confirmed to The Post in 2018 that Vekselberg’s conglomerate was at that time its largest client. However, the firm said at the time that it was owned by Americans and had never been controlled by Renova Group or Vekselberg.
Damn! Before I got into the Russia stuff, I meant to remind everyone of the petty theft charges against him that have come up so far— aside from the one in Brazil where he stole one of his mother’s patient’s check book and bought himself fancy clothes before fleeing to America.
He stole his very young boyfriend’s cell phone and pawned it.
After meeting her at a bingo hall in Brazil, he accompanied Adriana Damasceno to the U.S. where he drained her bank account and stole and pawned her jewelry.
He stole a $520 Burberry scarf, a $500 Armani shirt and other valuable items from his roommates, Gregory Morey-Parker and Yasser Rabello, when he lived in Queens
OK, what about him not being a U.S. citizen? The first I heard of that was early on in the scandal when a former call center co-worker, Barbara Hurdas, reported that he told her he was born in Brazil and wasn’t an American citizen. Yesterday, Michael Roskin approached the question of his citizenship from another angle. “Santos is openly gay,” he wrote. “He says he has a husband and wears a wedding band. Fine. But why then did he marry an American women in 2012 and stay married to her seven years, until 2019? If he were born in the U.S., he wouldn’t need a marriage of convenience. But if he were born in Brazil, he would. Is there any record of Santos and his wife actually cohabiting? Where did they live? Do friends and neighbors confirm that? The Immigration and Naturalization Service tries to guard against fake marriages by asking the American spouse detailed questions, such as the applicant’s toothpaste brand. Did the INS do this? After several years with a green card, holders may apply for naturalization. Did Santos? Or did he merely proclaim he was a U.S. citizen and nobody checked? Much could be cleared up if Santos merely showed the media and law enforcement his birth certificate. Why has he not done this? The listed hospital could be checked with a phone call. If it’s a U.S. birth certificate, end of story. But if it’s Brazilian, story is just beginning. Well, Republicans invented birtherism.”
And what’s the story with Santos’s “wife?” Why has she never been interviewed? What, in fact, is her name? Did she receive any money from Santos? She seems to be making herself scarce. Why would she do that? Because if she participated in a “green-card marriage,” she committed fraud and could suffer fines and jail time along with the applicant.
A green card issued under false pretenses is invalid. And using it to apply for naturalization is invalid. Therefore, any such naturalization and subsequent awarding of U.S. citizenship would be invalid. The applicant would remain a foreigner.
Roskin asked what the story is with Santos’ “wife?” Fair question. What about his husband? Anyone ever meet him? See him? Santos lives with his sister in an Elmhurst apartment. No one has ever seen “a husband” in the vicinity. Santos hasn’t been wearing the probably fake wedding band lately