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George Santos falsely claimed in court that he worked for Goldman Sachs, audio reveals

Santos makes false claim in court audio
Court audio: George Santos falsely told a judge he worked for Goldman Sachs 01:11

In audio from a 2017 court appearance at a bail hearing for a "family friend," George Santos can be heard telling a Seattle judge, "I'm an aspiring politician and I work for Goldman Sachs."

The first part was true — five years later, Santos would be indeed be gainfully employed as a politician, representing New York's 3rd Congressional District. But it is now widely known that the second part was not. He never worked for the famous investment firm.

"You work for Goldman Sachs in New York?" the judge asked. 

"Yup," Santos said.  In the audio, which was first obtained by Politico, Santos appears to address the court without being sworn in.

The false claim during an obscure Seattle, Washington, arraignment hearing was an early glimpse of a lie Santos would continue to spread as he campaigned for Congress in 2020 and 2022. He claimed to be a Goldman Sachs banker on the stump in New York and on a resumé released in January by the local GOP, along with other debunked claims about graduating from college and working elsewhere on Wall Street. Santos admitted in a December New York Post interview that he "never worked directly" for the firm.

Rep. George Santos
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) on Capitol Hill on Jan. 31, 2023. EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / REUTERS

The newly uncovered recording of his court appearance was also a reminder of how little is known about his connection to a man at the center of a wide-ranging credit card fraud case that involved stealing peoples' ATM card information and delivering it to Brazilian accomplices. Santos has declined to answer questions about the case. Representatives of Santos did not return a request for comment about the audio.

Santos was appearing at a May 15, 2017 bail hearing for Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, a Brazilian national who was arrested the month before for installing a skimming device on an ATM. 

Beyond that, only a patchwork of details have emerged that connect Santos, tangentially, to the Trelha case.

Santos was interviewed as part of the investigation, a law enforcement source confirmed to CBS News. The source said Santos was contacted because inside Trelha's rental car detectives found an empty FedEx package with a sender address matching a Florida apartment where Santos had recently lived, according to police records, including an evidence photo of the package obtained by CBS News. 

"There obviously was not enough evidence to associate Santos as an accomplice to the skimming case," the source said. Santos was not charged in the case, nor was he a suspect.

At Trelha's bail hearing, Santos identified himself as a "family friend" who was helping him to arrange "a long extended-stay apartment through Airbnb, or whatever website." 

"We're family friends. Our parents know each other from Brazil," Santos said. 

King County Superior Court Judge Sean O'Donnell reduced Trelha's bail from $250,000 to $75,000, a sum Trelha was still unable to post. His case was later moved to federal court, where he entered a guilty plea to one count of felony access device fraud.

Trelha told investigators he was working for a credit card fraud group based in Brazil and Florida. Prosecutors said they had evidence Trelha had compromised nearly 300 accounts with the card skimmer in just three days in Seattle. 

Calling the operation "sophisticated," a prosecutor said investigators believed it was just "the tip of the iceberg," according to a court transcript. Trelha was sentenced to time served, having already spent more than seven months in jail and was then turned over to immigration authorities.

Campaign of Deceit: The Election of George Santos | CBS Reports 22:49
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