Santos in plea deal negotiations with federal prosecutors

Santos in plea deal negotiations with federal prosecutors

(AP) Former U.S. Rep. George Santos is in negotiations to resolve his federal criminal fraud case, prosecutors said in a court filing Monday.

“The parties are presently engaged in plea negotiations with the goal of resolving this matter without the need for a trial,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace’s office wrote in the filing.

Santos is scheduled to appear in court on Long Island for a hearing in the case Tuesday. He acknowledged in an interview that aired Sunday that he hadn’t ruled out pleading guilty.

“The trial is not until September and a plea is not off the table. So there’s obviously conversations taking place, especially after what happened in Congress, and we’ll see,” he said in the interview with CBS 2, referring to his expulsion from Congress earlier this month.

Asked if he is afraid of going to jail, Santos responded: “I think everybody should be afraid of going to jail, it’s not a pretty place and uh, I definitely want to work very hard to avoid that as best as possible.”

Prosecutors said in Monday’s filing they are also seeking an earlier trial date in case the negotiations fail to produce a deal. The request is opposed by Santos’ lawyer, who didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Monday.

Santos faces a host of charges that he defrauded donors to his campaign, lied to Congress about his wealth, received unemployment benefits while employed and used campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses like designer clothing. He pleaded not guilty in October to additional charges that he made tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges on credit cards belonging to some of his campaign donors.

Santos hasn’t wasted any time looking to cash in on his infamy since becoming just the sixth lawmaker in history to be cast out by colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, a move that left Republicans with a razor-thin majority in the chamber.

The 35-year-old Queens native launched an account on the website Cameo, where the public can pay him for a personalized video message. In the televised interview, Santos said he made more money in a week on the platform than his annual salary as a congressman.

Santos was touted as a rising star after he flipped the suburban district that covers the affluent North Shore of Long Island and a slice of the New York City borough of Queens last year.

But his life story unraveled before he was even sworn into office: Reports revealed he had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree, among other things.

A special election will be held Feb. 13 to elect his House successor. That race will likely pit former U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat who previously held the seat before running unsuccessfully for governor, against one of a number of Republicans.

(George Santos AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)