GOP Rep. George Santos, N.Y., claims allegations he used a fake animal charity to scam a disabled veteran by raising money for their dog’s cancer treatment, only to keep the funds himself, are not true.
Santos said he has no knowledge of the purported scheme involving a charity he claimed to have founded.
“Fake. No clue who this is,” Santos told Semafor.
U.S. Navy veteran Richard Osthoff told Patch.com that he came into contact with an animal charity called “Friends of Pets United” after he learned it would cost $3,000 for surgery for his service dog, a pit bull mix named Sapphire who had developed a life-threatening stomach tumor.
A veterinary technician had told him they knew someone who ran the charity that could help raise money. Osthoff was informed that the charity was run by Anthony Devolder, an alias Santos allegedly used for years before entering politics in 2020.
Osthoff and another veteran, retired police Sgt. Michael Boll, who tried to intervene to help Osthoff in 2016, claimed a GoFundMe page that raised the necessary funds for the dog’s surgery was shut down by Santos and that the now-congressman then disappeared with the money.
Santos allegedly claimed the dog’s disease was untreatable after consulting with an affiliated veterinarian and that the money would instead go to his charity. Osthoff had urged to allow him to take the funds to other clinics, and Santos allegedly stopped responding.
Text messages allegedly sent between Osthoff and Santos that were obtained by Patch.com reveal the rejected request to take the funds elsewhere.
The dog died on Jan. 15, 2017, but Osthoff could not afford the euthanasia and cremation because he had been out of work with a broken leg for more than a year. Osthoff said he had to panhandle to find the money to euthanize and cremate Sapphire.
A “Friends of Pets United” charity Santos said he founded was not listed as a charity in official records, according to The New York Times, which also reported that the beneficiary of a 2017 fundraiser linked to the group said they did not receive the money.
This comes after reports exposed Santos for lying about parts of his background during his 2022 campaign, in which he defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman. Santos had fabricated, among other things, his work, education history and connections to an alleged Ponzi scheme.
Santos has been called on to resign by some Republican and Democratic members of Congress and numerous New York State Republicans. He said he would resign if the 142,000 people who voted for him asked him to.
On Tuesday, Santos was named to two committees — Small Business and Science, Space, and Technology — by House Republican leadership.