By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -George Santos’s father and aunt were identified on Thursday as the guarantors of the indicted U.S. representative’s $500,000 bail, after Santos fought unsuccessfully to keep them anonymous.
Gercino dos Santos and Elma Preven agreed to guarantee Santos’ bail, after the first-term New York congressman pleaded not guilty last month to 13 criminal charges including fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds.
George Santos and his lawyer had argued that releasing the names might subject his guarantors to the “media frenzy and hateful attacks” that the Republican congressman and his staff faced after news of his indictment surfaced on May 9.
At least 11 media organizations had opposed anonymity for the guarantors, citing the public interest.
The House of Representatives’ Ethics Committee also wanted the names, to determine whether Santos violated congressional rules on gifts.
Santos’ relatives were identified after U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert in Central Islip, New York, in a decision made public on Thursday, upheld a magistrate judge’s rejection of Santos’ request that their names be kept under wraps.
Seybert called it “disingenuous” to suggest that Santos’ father and aunt might be endangered, noting that they came forward to offer help after the congressman’s high-profile arraignment and expressed no concerns about guaranteeing bail.
“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,” the judge wrote.
Santos, 34, had earlier expressed a willingness to go to jail rather than release the names.
“My family & I have made peace with the judges decision to release their names,” Santos posted on Twitter. “Now I pray that the judge is correct and no harm comes to them. I look forward to continuing this process & I ask for the media to not disturb or harass my dad & aunt for the sakes of cheap reporting.
“If the press needs comments,” he added, “they know where and how to find me.”
Before being indicted, Santos became a lightning rod for criticism, with many Republican lawmakers calling for his resignation, after reports said he lied about much of his personal and professional background.
Santos has since admitted to fabricating large parts of his biography. He announced in April that he would seek reelection in November 2024.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis)