20221221 george santos nyt hed 2000

Scandal-Struck George Santos Just Revived the Firm That Netted Him Mystery Millions

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After the New York Times exposé, the incoming Republican congressman made a curious move.

On Monday, the New York Times published an explosive story revealing that George Santos, a New York Republican elected last month to the House of Representatives, had made what appeared to be brazenly false statements about his background, including assorted claims about his business career. He had boasted of being an accomplished investor and financier who had worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Yet each firm noted it had no record of his employment there. He had said he graduated from Baruch College. The school said he had not. His personal finances seemed odd as well, and he had worked at a Florida company called Harbor City Capital that was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2021 of running a $17 million Ponzi scheme. Subsequently, he supposedly made at least $3.5 million from a mysterious company called Devolder Organization LLC that he started, that had no public profile, and that was dissolved soon after it was created. This marked a dramatic shift from his first run for Congress in 2020, when he reported earning $55,000 per year.

The day after the Times story appeared, Santos took a curious step: He revived that mystery firm that he had claimed as the source of millions of dollars of income, and he listed as its address a Florida property associated with a former top official of the company that allegedly mounted that Ponzi scheme. Devolder’s resurrection was first reported by Talking Points Memo. The story of this firm is a key component of the Santos scandal.

The Times article cast Santos as a modern-day Mr. Ripley who seemingly had manufactured a rags-to-riches public persona based on audacious lies. He was once arrested in Brazil for forging checks. He boasted he founded an animal rescue charity, but the outfit barely existed and was not registered with the IRS as a nonprofit. (The intended beneficiary of one of its events reported never receiving the funds from a fundraiser Santos’ group helped to organize.) Before the election, Santos said he owned a “Hamptons mansion” worth $10 million, but according to his financial disclosure filings he owned no real estate at the time. (He was then renting an apartment in Queens.) All the unsubstantiated claims have prompted questions about his financial and business dealings, including Devolder and his interactions with Harbor City and its principals.

After working at a firm that ran conferences for investors—and earning a $55,000 salary there—Santos in July 2020 was hired as a New York regional director for Harbor City, which sought investors for a business generating digital customer leads to sell. In a press release announcing this move, JP Maroney, Harbor City’s CEO, said he had known Santos for years and called him a “perfect fit.” At the time, Santos was mounting his first bid for Congress in Long Island, which he would lose that November.

When Santos joined Harbor City, the company was already in trouble. Weeks earlier, the Alabama Securities Commission had prohibited Harbor City from doing business in the state. It alleged that the company was run by “fraudsters” who were “out to deceive Alabamians and profit off unsuspecting investors by using dazzling marketing tactics to sell unregistered bonds.”

In April 2021, the SEC filed its complaint charging that the firm and Maroney had mounted an extensive Ponzi scheme. The agency maintained that Maroney pocketed more than $4.8 million of the $17.1 million he raised from investors and used that money to pay $1.35 million in personal credit card bills, buy a $90,000 Mercedes-Benz, and purchase a waterfront home. The only other person named in the complaint was Maroney’s wife. No other Harbor City employees were implicated. In October, Maroney, who is representing himself, requested a stay in the SEC action against him and Harbor City, noting that he “is currently the target in a related criminal investigation.” Maroney did respond to messages requesting comment.

The Devolder Organization has no public-facing assets or other property that The Times could locate. Mr. Santos’s disclosure form did not provide information about clients that would have contributed to such a haul—a seeming violation of the requirement to disclose any compensation in excess of $5,000 from a single source.

Kedric Payne, the vice president of the watchdog Campaign Legal Center, and a former deputy chief counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics, was one of three election law experts consulted by The Times who took issue with the lack of detail.

Santos has said he was unaware of the alleged Ponzi operation.

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