A campaign aide who raised money for Rep. George Santos pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in federal court on Long Island on Tuesday.
The aide, Samuel Miele, is now the second former Santos campaign staffer to plead guilty to a federal fraud charge.
Miele had faced charges of wire fraud and identity theft, according to an indictment unsealed in federal court over the summer.
“Defrauding potential political contributions undermines our democracy, and we will vigorously prosecute such conduct,” Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
Miele’s sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2024, and he faces up to 20 years in prison. The 27-year-old agreed to pay $109,000 in restitution, $69,000 in forfeiture and a separate stipulated payment of $470,000, according to prosecutors.
Kevin Marino, Miele’s attorney, has not yet responded to Gothamist’s request for comment.
Miele’s guilty plea comes just over two weeks after Santos was last in court, where he again pleaded not guilty to a 23-count indictment on charges including conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, stealing public benefits and filing false statements with Congress and the Federal Election Commission.
While Santos continues to serve in Congress — having avoided expulsion by a vote of 213-179 — this latest guilty plea may be a harbinger of more trouble to come later this week. A bipartisan House ethics subcommittee formed to investigate Santos is expected to announce the next steps of their inquiry on or before Nov. 17.
During Thursday’s court appearance in Central Islip, Miele admitted that he committed access device fraud by charging credit cards for campaign contributions and his personal use without authorization. Miele had allegedly pretended to be the then-chief of staff to Rep. Kevin McCarthy while soliciting donations to Santos’ campaign, prosecutors said.
Santos has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Last month, Nancy Marks, the former treasurer for Santos’ campaign, entered a guilty plea to a fraud conspiracy charge. During her court appearance, she admitted to working with Santos to falsify a $500,000 loan he purported to make to his own campaign so that it would appear more successful to potential donors and the national party.
Marks also told the court she had helped Santos create a list of donors who had not actually given to the campaign, and had filed those records with the FEC.
Her plea deal comes with a sentencing recommendation of three and a half to four years in prison.
Meanwhile, Santos’ own case remains ongoing, with a status conference expected in December. His trial is not set to begin until September 2024.