We just learned the identities of the 2 bail guarantors keeping George Santos out of jail

We just learned the identities of the 2 bail guarantors keeping George Santos out of jail
By: Posted: June 23, 2023

George Santos
Rep. George Santos.

  • A judge has unsealed the identities of George Santos’s mysterious bail sponsors.
  • They’re his father and aunt. A third bail guarantor never came forward, a judge wrote.
  • Santos’s lawyer previously said the Congressman would rather go to jail than have their names be public.

A federal judge has unsealed the identities of the two people on the hook for Rep. George Santos’s $500,000 bond, siding with a group of media organizations — including Insider — that argued their names should be made public.

“Both Suretors were close family members; one is Defendant’s father and the other is Defendant’s aunt,” a judge wrote in a filing unsealed Thursday.

Santos’s father is Gercino Antônio dos Santos Jr. and his aunt is named Elma Santos Preven. Additional identifying information in the bond documents remains sealed.

A third bail sponsor, who was alluded to during Santos’s arraignment, never came forward to sign the bond documents, according to a separate order unsealed Thursday.

Federal prosecutors brought a 13-count indictment against Santos, a serial fabulist who represents a portion of New York, in May. They alleged he personally stole donations to his Long Island Congressional campaign operation, illegally took pandemic employment funds, and lied to Congress on financial disclosure documents.

Santos pleaded not guilty to the charges. The magistrate judge overseeing his arraignment allowed him to remain out of jail ahead of his criminal trial as long as he agreed to stay only in New York and Washington, DC. Three people initially agreed to put up money for bail, set at $500,000, though the third still-unknown person never followed through.

Santos’s father and aunt haven’t put up any cash or property to secure the bond, according to one of the orders unsealed Thursday. US Magistrate Judge Anne Shields allowed them to be bail sureties anyway because they “agreed to be personally responsible” for Santos.

“As is common in cases where there is neither property nor cash offered to secure a bond, the Court considered whether the Suretors were truly willing to stand up and make themselves responsible for Defendant’s compliance with the terms of his release,” Shields said in an order unsealed Thursday.

While bond documents are usually made public, Shields made the highly unusual decision to keep them secret, not even indicating on the public docket that they were filed under seal. Shields also hosted a secret meeting with the bail sponsors that did not appear on the public docket.

A group of media organizations, which include Insider, asked US District Judge Joanna Seybert, who has since overtaken the case, to unseal the bond documents and reveal the names of the people who are keeping Santos out of jail.

The decision to keep these documents sealed, lawyers at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP wrote in the filing, violated all precedents regarding the presumption of public access to judicial documents. Even bond documents for Ghislaine Maxwell — the Jeffrey Epstein associate ultimately convicted of trafficking girls to him for sex and sexually abusing some of them herself — were made public. Santos, they further argued, is an elected official representing people who have a right to keep him accountable.

“Rep. Santos has been criminally charged with fraud that directly relates to his role as an elected official in Congress, eroding public confidence in our government institutions and political leaders,” they wrote. “Given Rep. Santos’ role as a public servant, access to the identity of the bond sureties will bolster trust in the judicial process here.”

Santos said he’d rather go jail than have their identities be public

Joseph Murray, an attorney for Santos, asked Seybert to keep the identities secret anyway, arguing they faced potential threats if they were publicly associated with Santos and would be subject to a “media frenzy.”

The Congressman came to prominence shortly after he was elected in 2022, when a series of articles found he had lied or misled the public about being a Jew, his mother dying in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, working in finance at Citigroup, working in finance at Goldman Sachs, owning a “family’s firm” that managed $80 million in assets, employing people who died in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, producing the infamous Broadway flop “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” graduating from Baruch College, going to Baruch College on a volleyball scholarship, claiming to be a star player on the Baruch College volleyball team, playing on the Baruch College volleyball team in the first place, graduating from New York University, owning several New York properties, and not performing in drag while living in Brazil, among other things.

At the same time that Murray asked the judge for secrecy, Murray dropped hints that at least one family member had signed up as a suretor for Santos’s bail money. In a May 31 letter to the House of Representatives Ethics Committee, filed to court on June 5, Murray said he didn’t need to disclose to the committee the names of the bond guarantors because of a rule exempting the disclose of gifts from relatives.

george santos court
Rep. George Santos leaves federal court following his arraignment in Central Islip, New York.

Murray later made that more explicit, saying that, because the bond sponsors were family members, they would not impose undue influence on Santos’s votes in Congress. He also said in a filing that one of the three suretors had backed out already and that Santos would rather forfeit his $500,000 bond and go to jail than allow the names of those people to become public.

“My client would rather surrender to pretrial detainment than subject these suretors to what will inevitably come,” Murray wrote in a filing.

Santos ultimately didn’t file a motion to change the conditions of his release, which would have allowed him to go to jail or find new bail sponsors.

Outside the federal court in Central Islip after he entered his not-guilty plea in May, Santos told members of the media that they would “never” find out the identities of the sureties.

“That is information you’ll never get,” he said. “Because your intention is to go harass them and make their life miserable. You’re not getting that.”

In her ruling unsealed Thursday, Seybert wrote that Santos personally fed the “media frenzy” he had tried to use as an excuse to keep the identities private.

“The Suretors did not come before the Court until May 15, 2023, five days after Defendant’s highly publicized arraignment and plea; it is spurious to contend that the Suretors were unaware of the media reaction that had occurred earlier,” Seybert wrote. “At that time, Defendant did nothing to diffuse the ‘media frenzy’ when leaving the courthouse, instead choosing to address the numerous reporters awaiting his departure.”

If anything, Seybert wrote, Santos has drawn even more attention to their identities — giving more reason to make them public.

“It appears Defendant’s continued attempts to shield the identity of his Suretors, notwithstanding the fact that he is aware their identities are not controversial, has simply created hysteria over what is, in actuality, a nonissue,” Seybert wrote.

George Santos, who is wearing a blue blazer and sunglasses, speaking to a group of reporters with his hand raised for emphasis.
Rep. George Santos.

A similar saga over the secrecy of bail sponsors played out earlier this year, for Samuel Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cofounder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange.

A group of news organizations that included Insider asked US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who’s overseeing his criminal case, to unseal the identities of the two people who sponsored his mammoth $250 million bond along with Bankman-Fried’s parents.

Kaplan sided with the news organizations, revealing the two sponsors as Larry Kramer and Andreas Paepcke, who have ties to Stanford University, where Bankman-Fried’s parents work.

In his unsealing order, Kaplan pushed back against arguments from Bankman-Fried’s lawyers that the bail sponsors’ privacy rights outweighed the public’s right to access court documents. Surely, he wrote, Kramer and Paepcke knew what they were getting into.

“The non-parental bail sureties have entered voluntarily into a highly publicized criminal proceeding by signing the individual bonds,” Kaplan wrote in his ruling.

This story is breaking and being updated.

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