March 22, 2023



CNN
 — 

Embattled Rep. George Santos on Friday said he was “innocent” of an allegation that he had orchestrated a credit card skimming operation in 2017 in Seattle that led to the guilty plea and deportation of a Brazilian man.

“Innocent,” the New York Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill. “Never did anything of criminal activity, and I have no mastermind event.”

His denials came a day after Politico published a sworn statement that the publication said Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha had submitted this week to the FBI and other federal law enforcement officials, alleging that Santos had overseen the skimming operation.

Trelha, whom Politico identified as a former roommate of Santos, pleaded guilty to “access device fraud” in 2017 in Seattle, federal records show. He had been arrested earlier that year after using a credit card skimming device and electronic camera on ATMs to “surreptitiously steal the credit and debit card numbers” of users and record them entering their pin numbers as they used the automatic teller machines, federal prosecutors said in court documents.

In the declaration, Trelha alleged that Santos had taught him how to clone ATM and credit cards and that the two had agreed to a 50-50 split of proceeds.

CNN has not verified the authenticity of the Trelha’s declaration, and the New York attorney representing Trelha has not returned several emails and phone calls.

CNN has also reached out to the FBI and the Department of Justice for comment.

On Friday, Santos told reporters that he had provided information to federal authorities in connection with the fraud probe in Seattle.

“I cooperated with Secret Service, FBI, everybody that asked for my help. Got information for them. Got everybody arrested and deported,” he said.

Santos also sought to distance himself from Trelha, denying that the two were ever roommates and saying that he only met him “a couple of times in my life.”

Santos did appear in court on Trelha’s behalf in 2017, according to an audio recording of the bail hearing obtained by CNN. At the hearing, Santos described Trelha as a “family friend.”

At that hearing, Santos also falsely told the judge that he worked for Goldman Sachs. The congressman has since acknowledged that he never worked directly for the New York investment giant.

The allegation from Trelha comes as the freshman congressman faces intense scrutiny over his multiple fabrications about his biography and resume. Local and federal prosecutors are investigating his finances, and the House ethics committee last week announced that it was officially moving forward with a probe into whether Santos may have engaged in unlawful activity during his successful 2022 campaign for his Long Island seat.

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