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Semafor LogoKadia Goba and Benjy Sarlin
politics

George Santos denies swindling a disabled veteran while their dog died of a tumor

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George Santos.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

George Santos claims he has no knowledge of a purported scheme in which he allegedly used a fake animal charity to scam a disabled veteran by raising money for their sick dog’s cancer treatment and then disappearing with the funds.

“Fake,” Santos texted Semafor. “No clue who this is.”

The accusations, detailed in a story on Patch.com that contained alleged text messages and social media exchanges with Santos, are perhaps the darkest turn yet in the Congressman's story.

U.S. Navy veteran Richard Osthoff and another veteran told the outlet that, while homeless, he reached out to “Friends of Pets United,” a group Santos claimed to have founded, to help raise money for his service dog, Sapphire, who had developed a stomach tumor.

After connecting with “Anthony Devolder,” a known alias of Santos, Osthoff said a GoFundMe organized through the group raised the necessary money — $3,000 — to perform the needed surgery. But “Devolder” made excuses instead, claiming that the disease was untreatable after consulting with an affiliated veterinarian and that the money would go to his charity instead, even as Osthoff begged him to let him take the funds to other clinics.

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Eventually, he stopped responding. Osthoff told Patch he had to panhandle in order to find the money to euthanize and cremate Sapphire.

The New York Times previously reported that a “Friends of Pets United” charity Santos claimed to have founded was not listed as a charity in official records and that the beneficiary of a 2017 fundraiser linked to the group said they had never seen the money.

In addition to messages and posts published by Patch.com, there is publicly available social media evidence of the alleged fundraising campaign. A tweet from April 30, 2016 reads: "Click here to support sapphire The Veteran rescue! by Anthony Devolder." It links to a non-functioning GoFundMe page.

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The news came just hours after Santos was named by House Republican leadership to two committees in Congress: Small Business and Science, Space, and Technology.

Santos told Semafor earlier on Tuesday that he “campaigned strongly on delivering for small businesses” and would “serve small business owners across New York State” in his new role.

Numerous New York Republicans, including Santos’ fellow House members, urged the Congressman to resign last week. Santos has insisted he will not do so.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy has not joined in calls for Santos’ resignation, however, saying his many purported lies and financial irregularities should be reviewed by the House Ethics Committee and that he should be able to take committee assignments pending their investigation. Semafor has reached out to a spokesman for McCarthy for comment on the latest story.

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