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February 10, 2023

U.S. Rep. George Santos was charged with theft in 2017 in Pennsylvania, but got it dismissed, report says

The New York legislator was accused of writing false checks to pay for puppies from dog breeders in Amish country. After he was served an extradition warrant, he claimed his checkbook had been stolen

U.S. Rep. George Santos was charged with theft in Pennsylvania in 2017 after a series of false checks were written in his name to purchase puppies from dog breeders in York County, though the charge was later dismissed and his record expunged, according to a report published Thursday. 

The theft charge, first reported by Politico, is the latest in a series of controversies that have surrounded Santos since the Republican was elected in November to serve New York's Third Congressional District. 

According to the report, several days after $15,125 in bad checks were made out for "puppies," Santos held an adoption event with his animal rescue charity, Friends of Pets United, at a Staten Island pet store. He ran the charity from 2015 until 2018, claiming to have helped get 2,500 dogs adopted.

The York County District Attorney's Office confirmed to CNN that Santos had been charged with theft by deception in 2017 and that his record had been expunged in late 2021 after he claimed someone stole his checkbook. Tiffany Bogosian, a lawyer and friend of Santos, gave him legal advice at the time, but she told Politico that she no longer believes his story. 

Bogosian said she reconnected with Santos at a Starbucks in Queens in 2019. Several weeks later, in February 2020, Santos reached out for legal help after he was served an extradition warrant over the theft charges in Pennsylvania, Politico reported. 

At the time, Santos said one of his checkbooks had gone missing shortly after he received it and blamed someone he knew for its disappearance. Once he noticed it was gone, he canceled the checkbook with TD Bank, according to the report. 

Bogosian sent an email to a Pennsylvania state trooper on Santos' behalf, explaining the situation as Santos had described it to her. She attached nine canceled checks, some of which include the word "puppies" on their memo lines, and some bank statements, noting that the signatures on the checks did not match one another, and did not match the signature on Santos' driver's license, the report said. 

Santos went to Pennsylvania to address the warrant, telling authorities that he was an employee at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the charge was dropped. His record was expunged more than a year later, though Bogosian told Politico that she didn't know how the Pennsylvania State Police found Santos in New York or why it had taken them years to execute an extradition warrant. 

Before holding the adoption event at Pet Oasis, Santos asked its owner to make the check with the proceeds out to him rather than his charity, The New York Times reported. Though the shop owner refused to do that, he later discovered that the check had been changed to the way Santos wanted it. 

Santos' office did not immediately respond to PhillyVoice's request for comment regarding the charges. 

The theft charge is the latest information to surface about Santos, who has been embroiled in controversies and a federal investigation due to lies about his campaign biography. He has previously admitted to fabricating portions of his education, work experience and family history, but has maintained that he did not break any laws.

The New York legislator is facing at least five law enforcement probes, including an FBI investigation into his role in the dog charity. A disabled veteran claimed that Santos, who previously went by Anthony Devolder, stole $3,000 from him in a GoFundMe scheme after promising he'd help raise money for the veteran's dog, Oyster Bay Patch reported. 

Brazilian authorities also are investigating Santos for alleged fraud stemming from a 2008 incident regarding a stolen checkbook. The investigation had been suspended for nearly a decade because authorities were unable to locate him, The New York Times reported. 

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, a Democrat from California, introduced and referred a resolution to the House Ethics Committee to expel Santos from the House of Representatives.