US Rep. George Santos’ former campaign treasurer pleads guilty to a conspiracy charge

US Rep. George Santos’ former campaign treasurer pleads guilty to a conspiracy charge

NEW YORK (AP) — The ex-campaign treasurer for U.S. Rep. George Santos pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and implicated the indicted New York Republican in court with submitting bogus campaign finance reports.

Nancy Marks, who was a close aide to Santos during his two congressional bids, entered the plea at a federal courthouse on Long Island, where she was a longtime political operative and bookkeeper for multiple candidates.

Speaking to the judge, Marks said that among other things, she and Santos had falsely recorded in campaign finance reports that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 even though in reality he did not make that loan and did not have the money to do so. She said the purpose of the fake loan was to make it look like he had a well-funded campaign, which might attract other donors.

Her plea agreement comes with a recommendation that she serve 3 1/2 years to 4 years in prison.
Marks resigned as Santos’ treasurer amid growing questions about his campaign finances and revelations that the Republican had fabricated much of his life story.

Santos faces a 13-count federal indictment centered on charges of money laundering and lying to Congress in an earlier financial disclosure.

A spokesperson for Santos, Gabrielle Lipsky, said his congressional office could not comment on the matter.

Marks She had not previously been charged. Thursday marked her first appearance in court.

The investigation of Santos, a first-term congressman, has also engulfed Marks, a key behind-the-scenes figure in Long Island Republican politics who built a business as a treasurer and consultant to dozens of local, state and federal candidates.

Marks has faced questions about the congressman’s unusual campaign filings, including a series of $199.99 expenses, just below the legal limit for disclosure. Santos, in turn, has sought to pin the blame for his unexplained finances on Marks, who he claims “went rogue” without his knowledge.

Any deal with prosecutors that requires Marks to testify in the case against Santos could be a severe blow to the Republican, who faces charges that he embezzled money from his campaign, lied in financial disclosures submitted to Congress and received unemployment funds when he wasn’t eligible.

While Santos has admitted fabricating key parts about his purported background as a wealthy, well-educated businessman, questions remain about what he did for work, as well as the true source of more than $700,000 he initially claimed to have loaned his campaign from his own personal fortune.

Santos has pleaded not guilty to charges he duped donors, stole from his campaign and lied to Congress about being a millionaire, all while cheating to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve. He has defied calls to resign.

Besides Santos, Marks’ most high-profile client was former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, an ally of Donald Trump. She was Zeldin’s bookkeeper when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2022.

Marks, besides being responsible for keeping Santos’ campaign books and handling his regulatory filings, had unusual business ties to Santos, according to public records.

In 2021, she was listed as being a member of a political consulting firm incorporated in Florida, whose other members included Santos’ company and people who had formerly been affiliated with an investment company that had been shut down by the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that it was a Ponzi scheme.

When Santos was indicted, Marks wasn’t mentioned by name in court filings. But the indictment described an unnamed political consultant who it said had helped dupe donors who gave money that they thought was going to the campaign but was instead siphoned off for Santos’ personal use.

Marks is the second person besides Santos to face charges in connection with the campaign. In August, a former Santos fundraiser, Sam Miele, was indicted on federal charges that he impersonated the then-chief of staff to GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who at the time was the House minority leader.

Miele pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Kevin Marino, had predicted that his client would be exonerated at trial.

U.S. Rep. George Santos speaks to reporters as he leaves the federal courthouse in Central Islip, N.Y., Wednesday, May 10, 2023. A 13-count federal indictment unsealed in New York accuses Santos of embezzling money from his campaign, falsely receiving unemployment funds and lying to Congress about his finances. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)