Scandal-plagued US congressman accused of masterminding fraud scheme
A Brazilian man convicted of skimming ATMs has named embattled US Congressman George Santos as the mastermind behind the fraud ring. Santos, then going by the name Anthony Devolder, was “the person in charge of the crime of credit card fraud when I was arrested,” Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha claimed in a letter to the FBI, published by Politico on Friday.
“Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards. He gave me all the materials and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines,” Trelha wrote in the sworn statement sent on Wednesday. He was given a crash course in ATM-skimming upon renting a room from Santos in 2016 and was flown out to Seattle to work, splitting the profits 50-50 with Santos, he claimed.
Trelha was soon caught and received a visit from Santos, who allegedly told him not to implicate him in the scheme and “threatened” his friends back in Florida. Trelha was deported back to Brazil in 2018 after serving a seven-month sentence.
New York Republican Santos vouched for Trelha during a 2017 bail hearing, identifying himself as a “family friend” who “worked for Goldman Sachs” – a claim since revealed to be false – and volunteering to set his protege up with lodging, according to court records seen by Politico.
However, Trelha claimed that not only did Santos fail to secure his release from jail, but he actually stole the $20,000 Trelha had already collected for bail by promising to hire him the lawyer used by Mexican drug lord El Chapo and disappearing with the funds.
Trelha said he did not initially name Santos as a co-conspirator out of fear that his friends in Florida would be deported. Santos, who told a friend he was an “informant” in Trelha’s case, did give up a list of names involved in the ATM skimming ring, according to a former friend who claims to have spoken to Seattle police detective Lawrence Meyer – although Politico could not reach Meyer for comment.
While Santos has admitted he “embellished” his gleaming resume, fabricating an educational, occupational, and even ethnic history supposedly more befitting a congressman, he maintains his innocence on all criminal charges despite federal, state, local, and even international investigations open against him.
He was never formally identified as a suspect in the 2017 fraud investigation, though he was repeatedly interviewed and the case remains open, insider sources told CBS last month.