New Jersey veteran claims Rep. George Santos organized fundraiser for dying dog, then pocketed the money
NEW YORK -- Adding to the long list of people duped by George Santos is a New Jersey veteran who says the congressman organized a fundraiser for his dying dog in 2016, only to pocket the money for himself.
When 47-year-old Rich Osthoff first approached Santos in 2016, the New Jersey veteran was disabled, homeless and desperate for help. His service dog, Sapphire, had developed a life-threatening cyst that required immediate surgery.
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"That dog save my life more than twice ... She knew when my moods were changing, she knew when I was depressed, going manic," Osthoff said.
A veterinary tech recommended Santos, who at the time went by the name Anthony Devolder and claimed to run a charity called Friends of Pets United.
Santos created a GoFundMe, writing "when a veteran reaches out to ask for help, how can you say no..."
In two months, the campaign raised the necessary $3,000.
"I wanted to go back to the vet. He wouldn't let me have the money to go the veterinarian. I had to go through his veterinarian, through all of his services. And that's when I started to realize it was getting very difficult to deal with this guy," Osthoff said.
Watch Christina Fan's report
Text messages show the two arguing back and forth with Santos writing the vet couldn't operate "because it's very invasive."
Michael Boll, a veterans advocate, said he tried to mediate, but Santos refused to give up the money and then disappeared.
"We tried to contact the authorities down where Rich lives and press charges, but there wasn't enough information to do that," he said.
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Without the fundraising money, Sapphire died a few months later.
"I had to panhandle for the money, beg and plead just to have her euthanatized," Osthoff said.
Losing Sapphire was so heartbreaking that Osthoff never forgot Santos' face. Imagine his surprise, when he saw the now-congressman on TV seven years later, accused of fraud.
"I got a sick feeling in my stomach when I saw his face. And as soon they said, what's your name today, is it George Santos or Anthony Devolder? Oh..." Osthoff said.
He's sharing his story now, so everyone will see the real Santos.
CBS2 reached out to Santos' congressional office for comment but have not heard back.
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Meanwhile, a federal source told CBS News that Santos' mother's "immigration document showed she was in Brazil" on 9/11. Santos' campaign website had stated his mother was in the World Trade Center the day of the attacks.
Gregory Morey, a former roommate of Santos', claims he stole his Burberry scarf and later wore it to a "Stop the Steal" rally.
"I saw that video and I was just like, yeah, not very happy," Morey said.
Despite the controversies, Santos was still picked to be on two House panels, including the Small Business Committee.
"The speaker had said in advance he wouldn't appoint him to any important committees, so I guess that gives a sense of ... what the majority thinks about small business in America," said Professor David Birdsell, provost of Kean University.
Birdsell says Santos seems to have embraced the hard right wing of his party in hopes of finding a home in the House.
"The big risk for somebody who is as much of a pariah as he is that he has no friends. It appears that he is getting close to the Freedom Caucus. We'll see how strong that relationship is," he said.
Wednesday in Brazil, a judge asked Santos to respond to a criminal fraud case against him from a 2008 incident in which Santos allegedly used a stolen checkbook.
Santos did not respond to a request for comment.
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