George Santos masterminded 2017 ATM fraud, former roommate tells feds
Santos, whose full identify is George Anthony Devolder Santos, typically glided by Anthony Devolder earlier than his first congressional bid in 2020. The New York Republican gained a Lengthy Island swing district final November after lying on the campaign trail about his schooling, work expertise and supposed Jewish ancestry. The Home ethics panel initiated an investigation into Santos final week to discover doable “illegal exercise” associated to his run. State, federal and Brazilian authorities are additionally probing Santos associated to a string of potential monetary crimes. Santos has admitted to “embellishing” elements of his background, however mentioned he by no means broke any legal guidelines.
He was beforehand questioned concerning the Seattle scheme by investigators for the U.S. Secret Service, CBS News has reported. He was by no means charged, however the investigation stays open. Santos additionally informed an legal professional pal he was “an informant” within the fraud case. Trelha insists he was its mastermind.
“Santos taught me methods to skim card data and methods to clone playing cards. He gave me all of the supplies and taught me methods to put skimming gadgets and cameras on ATM machines,” Trelha mentioned within the declaration that was submitted to authorities by his New York legal professional, Mark Demetropoulos. POLITICO obtained a replica of the declaration.
Spokespeople for the FBI didn’t return messages. Representatives for the Secret Service and the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace declined to remark.
A lawyer for Santos additionally didn’t reply to emails and textual content messages for remark.
Trelha and Santos met within the fall of 2016 on a Fb group for Brazilians residing in Orlando, Fla., he mentioned within the declaration and in an interview with POLITICO. By November, Trelha had rented a room in Santos’ Winter Park, Fla., condominium, in keeping with a replica of the lease considered by POLITICO.
“That’s when and the place I discovered from him methods to clone ATM and bank cards,” Trelha wrote within the declaration that was translated from his native Portuguese.
Santos saved a warehouse on Kirkman Highway in Orlando to retailer the skimming tools, in keeping with the declaration.
“He had lots of materials — elements, printers, clean ATM and bank cards to be painted and engraved with stolen account and private data.
“Santos gave me at his warehouse, a few of the elements to illegally skim bank card data. Proper after he gave me the cardboard skimming and cloning machines, he taught me methods to use them,” Trelha wrote.
Trelha then flew out to Seattle the place he was caught on a safety digicam eradicating a skimming gadget from a Chase ATM on Pike Avenue, in keeping with legislation enforcement information. He was arrested on April 27.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace in Seattle beforehand informed POLITICO it’s common for bank card thieves to go removed from residence to nab numbers so there’s much less probability of the stolen numbers being traced again to the perpetrators. That spokesperson, Emily Langlie, mentioned she didn’t have any details about Santos’ involvement within the Trelha case.
On the time of his arrest, Trelha had a faux Brazilian ID card and 10 suspected fraudulent playing cards in his resort room, in keeping with police paperwork. An empty FedEx bundle police present in his rental automotive was despatched from the Winter Park unit he shared with Santos.
Trelha informed federal authorities within the declaration Wednesday that his “cope with Santos was 50% for him and 50% for me.”
“We used a pc to have the ability to obtain the data on the items. We additionally used an exterior laborious drive to avoid wasting the filming, as a result of the skimmer took the data from the cardboard, and the digicam took the password,” he wrote.
“It didn’t work out so nicely, as a result of I used to be arrested,” he admitted.
Trelha mentioned Santos visited him in jail in Seattle, however informed him to not implicate him within the scheme.
“Santos threatened my associates in Florida that I have to not say that he was my boss,” he wrote.
Trelha agreed to say he was working for somebody in Brazil and never with Santos, as a result of he was apprehensive Santos would have his associates in Orlando deported, he mentioned in a phone interview final month. Trelha recalled Santos warning he may “make issues worse for him” since he was already in jail and Santos was a U.S. citizen.
In an audio recording of Trelha’s Might 15, 2017 arraignment in King County Superior Courtroom, Santos tells the choose he’s a “household pal” who was there to safe an area Airbnb if the defendant was launched on bail.
Santos additionally claimed to the choose he labored for Goldman Sachs in New York, a key a part of his marketing campaign biography he later admitted wasn’t true.
Trehla was unable to submit the $75,000 bail. He pleaded responsible to felony entry gadget fraud, served seven months in jail and was deported to Brazil in early 2018.
“Santos didn’t assist me to get out of jail. He additionally stole the cash that I had collected for my bail,” Trelha informed federal investigators within the declaration.
Trelha informed POLITICO that earlier than flying to Seattle, Santos had traveled to Orlando to select up $20,000 in money he instructed Leide Oliveira Santos, one other roommate, to provide him from a secure. Santos had promised to rent El Chapo’s lawyer for Trelha, he mentioned. A 3rd roommate within the Winter Park condominium informed POLITICO in a cellphone interview that Oliveira Santos informed him Santos had come to get cash for Trelha. The third roommate spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of he was within the nation as an undocumented immigrant.
However Trelha by no means heard from Santos after Santos visited him in Seattle, the third roommate mentioned. He later discovered from Oliveira Santos that her makes an attempt to contact Santos over the following few months have been futile.
Trelha realized he had been conned, he mentioned, when no lawyer appeared — not to mention El Chapo’s.
However he nonetheless didn’t wish to identify Santos as a co-conspirator, fearing retaliation in opposition to Oliveira Santos, who was additionally an undocumented immigrant, he mentioned.
Trelha informed the federal authorities within the declaration that he had witnesses to assist his statements. Oliveira Santos declined to debate the matter with POLITICO.
“I’m out there to talk with any American authorities investigator,” Trelha wrote earlier than offering his e mail tackle and mobile phone quantity and testifying that he signed the declaration “willingly and honestly.”
A federal prosecutor who dealt with Trelha’s case described the scheme as “subtle,” including that the Seattle portion was solely “the tip of the iceberg,” in keeping with courtroom information reported by CBS News. However an individual near the investigation who just isn’t approved to talk publicly mentioned they noticed no proof that prosecutors did forensic reviews on Trelha’s cellphone or appeared motivated to pursue worldwide co-conspirators.