The Wild Eviction Drama George Santos Can’t Seem to Explain
Rep. George Santos is once again on the move.At least, that’s what the embattled Republican congressman-elect told The Daily Beast this week, in response to questions about the Queens apartment he’s been staying at with his sister. It turns out, according to New York court records, his sister was already facing potential eviction for failure
Rep. George Santos is once again on the move.
At least, that’s what the embattled Republican congressman-elect told The Daily Beast this week, in response to questions about the Queens apartment he’s been staying at with his sister. It turns out, according to New York court records, his sister was already facing potential eviction for failure to pay rent at that apartment.
The details of Santos’ wanderings add to the cloak of contradictions and lies surrounding his biographical and financial claims, raising new questions about exactly where he lived and how he funded his lifestyle and his campaign. The pending ouster also clashes with the sharp stance the Republican took against the city’s eviction moratorium and in support of landlords, when he lamented the rent his family had lost on “13 properties”—claims he has since acknowledged are flat-out lies.
Santos, whose 2022 financial disclosure states a net worth between $2.5 million and $11.5 million—along with a condo in Rio de Janeiro valued between $500,001 and $1 million—was spotted moving into his sister’s Elmhurst neighborhood apartment on Dec. 27. The move came as a spate of media reports began to unravel his pretenses to wealth and corporate success, along with a number of fabrications about some of the basic facts of his life. Those claims have drawn inquiries from multiple law enforcement agencies, with reports of a federal investigation coming the day after the move.
But three weeks before Santos was spotted toting his personal effects and four dogs into the Elmhurst apartment—which Santos has consistently listed as his address on federal campaign finance loans, despite being registered to vote at another address—the property’s owners asked a Queens County court to issue an eviction warrant against his sister. The motion was the latest step in a long-running landlord-tenant dispute regarding what is now years of allegedly unpaid rent. A court appearance is scheduled for February.
Asked this week whether the eviction dispute might affect his newfound living arrangements, Santos told The Daily Beast in text messages that his Elmhurst digs had been temporary. He claimed that he had already relocated to a new apartment in north Queens, in his district, on Monday.
But on that day, Santos had been in D.C. to assume the Long Island House seat he won in November. His family had moved his belongings for him, he said. Santos, who on Tuesday was photographed on the House floor without his wedding ring, did not reply when asked if the man who identifies as his husband had moved to the new spot with him.
(A Daily Beast reporter saw a man who was not Santos’ husband walking the Republican’s two golden retrievers after leaving the apartment building late Wednesday afternoon.)
Santos also told The Daily Beast that he was considering whether he could cancel his voter registration, a step he said would help conceal his place of residence from the press. (New York voter data still shows he is registered at the Whitestone address.) Election laws in New York require candidates to be registered to vote with their party in order to qualify for the ballot. Santos has reportedly told local GOP officials he will not seek re-election.
Court records show the eviction dispute originated in August 2020, when New York City had suspended evictions amid the COVID crisis. In May 2022, five months after the city lifted the moratorium, the building’s owners terminated his sister’s lease, citing failure to pay tens of thousands of dollars of rent while occupying the rent-stabilized apartment. The owners claimed in court filings that she and two other unnamed people have been squatting in the building since that time, and have failed to satisfy their nearly $40,000 in payment obligations despite receiving more than $30,000 in July from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).
ERAP is a financial assistance program created in the December 2021 COVID relief bill. It allows distressed tenants to apply for federal funds, which the government pays directly to the landlord. In this case, the building owners and landlord argue that Santos’ sister failed to cover the full rent, despite the ERAP aid.
“Respondent failed to pay the arrears sought in this proceeding, even after ERAP payment,” an attorney for the owners wrote in a Dec. 5 affidavit, noting that, because 180 days had passed since the ERAP payment, the eviction stay had expired.
“To date, all rent has become due and owing… and has remained unpaid,” the affidavit said, requesting an eviction order.
In 2021, Santos demanded the city lift the eviction moratorium. He criticized the program as unfairly helping tenants while punishing landlords, claiming falsely that he and his family had been deprived of rent they were owed on 13 properties—they did not own any, he has since admitted—and complained that they, unlike tenants, were getting no government assistance.
The New York Times previously reported that Santos himself had faced evictions in 2015 and 2017, including at another rent-stabilized apartment in Sunnyside, Queens.
His Dec. 27 move into his sister’s Elmhurst apartment came three months after Santos had vacated the Whitestone residence still listed on his voter registration, where he had been living with his sister, according to that property’s landlord.
But just one day before that Dec. 27 move, Santos told the New York Post he was currently residing with his sister at a different place in Huntington, which appears on Santos campaign payments for “apartment rental for staff.”
His sister, Tiffany Santos, did not respond to requests for comment. Her attorney in the matter, a lawyer for Queens Legal Services, asked The Daily Beast to send questions by email, but she did not reply.
As his sister faces eviction, George Santos’ own financial statements suggest a multimillionaire with ready access to liquidity. In the course of his campaign, Santos pulled at least $1.75 million in cash from his Devolder Organization, including a $750,000 salary and between $1 million and $5 million in dividends. He previously told The Daily Beast that he withdrew that salary specifically to fund his campaign, a move that campaign experts say would appear to constitute an illegal corporate contribution.
The Elmhurst building is located directly across from the Queens Center Mall—a straight four-mile shot to LaGuardia Airport, on a thoroughfare boasting numerous fast food drive-thrus, furniture and mattress outlets, and big box stores. It contains 144 apartments, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. Amenities include a 24-hour doorman, fitness center, media room, and roof deck. The Santos apartment, which his sister rents for $2,050 a month, according to court records, is on the fifth floor, where a dog-hair-covered “Let’s Go Brandon” doormat greets visitors.
Specifically, Santos listed this address as his own when reporting the hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans he made to his campaign and one of his political action committees—the most recent being a $125,000 advance on Oct. 26, 2022, in the middle of the battle with the property owner.
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Santos may have violated federal law if he pulled cash from his company to underwrite these loans, as he claimed, a move campaign finance experts say could constitute unlawful corporate support. It’s unclear whether his corporate clients were aware.
Additionally, the FEC flagged the October loan as improperly reported. The notice informed the campaign that the loan was not listed on the schedule where candidates are required to disclose details about the source of the funds.
“If the loan is from the candidate, you must indicate whether it is from his/her personal funds, or was obtained by the candidate from a bank loan, brokerage account, credit card, home equity line of credit or other line of credit,” the agency wrote. They flagged the same issue on previous loans.
The Santos campaign’s irregular spending also includes a series of rent payments in varying amounts for a property in Huntington, The New York Times reported. FEC filings show that those payments—marked “apartment rental for staff”—began in May, the same month the Elmhurst owners say they terminated their lease with Santos’ sister. The 2022 Santos campaign reported no rent payments prior to that date, and his 2020 campaign reported no rent payments whatsoever, per federal data.
Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director at government watchdog Documented and a campaign finance law expert, explained that while some rental expenses are allowed, candidates cannot put donor money towards personal costs.
“It is permissible to use campaign funds to cover office rent, or potentially even to cover a short-term apartment rental for staffers who move to the district during the campaign. However, campaign funds cannot be used for any personal expenses, including to cover a candidate’s personal rent,” Fischer said, adding that Santos could incur campaign finance and House ethics violations if he used campaign funds to pay his personal rent.
Curiously, at the same time Santos’ sister was not paying rent, she was making sizable political donations. However, she only gave to two campaigns: her brother’s, and one of his top allies.
In December 2021, the sister donated $5,000 to one of Santos’ fundraising committees, per FEC records. And in June 2022—weeks before receiving more than $30,000 in public emergency funds to pay her back rent—she attempted to give a total of $8,700 to Michelle Bond, a failed GOP candidate for a neighboring Long Island House seat and the girlfriend of FTX co-founder Ryan Salame.
That amount—more than four times her monthly rent—exceeded the $5,800 individual limit, and she was refunded the excessive $2,900. For both gifts, Tiffany Santos used the address of the apartment from which she now faces expulsion. (The building number appears to have been incorrectly entered on the contribution to her brother.)
The size of the donations puzzled campaign finance experts.
“How could Santos’ sister afford to give thousands of dollars in political contributions when she couldn’t pay her rent and had just applied for federal rental assistance? Where did George Santos get the money to finance his campaign, and where did his sister get the money to make maxed-out political donations?” Fischer wondered. “This is another piece of the Santos saga that just doesn’t add up.”
Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance law expert and deputy executive director at the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, explained that federal law prohibits a person from serving as a “straw donor” to pass money to a candidate.
“It’s called the ban on contributions in the name of another,” Ryan told The Daily Beast.
He added, “Under that fact pattern, both the straw donor and the person who is the real source of the funds have violated federal law. Likewise, if the candidate knew that the money wasn’t really the donor’s, they would have violated federal law by knowingly receiving a contribution in the name of another.”
Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that advocates for campaign finance transparency, said that “when we look at max donors, that’s typically money that wealthy people have sitting around, not people struggling to pay rent.”
Libowitz added that the financial patterns around Santos appear so irregular that “anything around him gets called into question.”
As The Daily Beast previously reported, Tiffany Santos received tens of thousands of dollars in payments between February 2021 and February 2022 from a New York State political action committee called Rise NY PAC, which shared her brother’s campaign treasurer and several of his donors and vendors. She listed her occupation as “president” of the PAC on some of her federal donations.
Empire State campaign finance records also show Rise NY PAC paid $8,000 in March 2022 to a “Redstone Strategy Group,” located in Boulder, Colorado. The Daily Beast reached out to this firm, which advises philanthropists and nonprofits on making social justice-targeted investments, and a principal from the company stated that it had never worked for or received payments from Rise NY PAC.
Notably, Santos’ Devolder Organization formed an entity in Florida called Redstone Strategies in late 2021 with Jayson Benoit, one of his former co-workers from Harbor City Capital, an investment firm that effectively shut down that same year after the Securities and Exchange Commission charged it with being a Ponzi scheme. (Santos and Benoit were not named in the scheme.)
Efforts to reach Benoit were not successful.