A former fundraiser for U.S. Rep. George Santos pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal wire fraud charge, admitting he impersonated a top congressional aide while raising campaign cash for the embattled New York Republican.
Sam Miele was caught soliciting donations in late 2021 under the alias Dan Meyer, who was then chief of staff to Rep. Kevin McCarthy when the former House speaker was Republican minority leader, according to Santos. Federal authorities have not yet confirmed that Meyer was the assistant Miele impersonated.
Miele, who was charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30. He faces more than two years in prison, according to sentencing guidelines, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said.
He also admitted to committing wire fraud by charging credit cards without authorization to send money to the campaigns of Santos and other political candidates and for his personal use, prosecutors said. That fraud totaled about $100,000, they said.
“The defendant used fraud and deceit to steal more than $100,000 from his victims, funneling that money to the campaign committees of House candidates and into his own pockets,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. in a statement. “Deceiving potential political contributors undermines our democracy and we will vigorously prosecute such behavior.”
Miele's attorney, Kevin Marino, did not immediately return phone and email messages Tuesday. Marino previously said Miele was looking forward to “being acquitted at trial.”
Miele also agreed to pay about $109,000 in restitution, forfeit another $69,000 and pay $470,000 to a campaign contributor, prosecutors said.
Miele is the second Santos campaign aide to agree to a federal investigation. Last month, Santos' former treasurer, Nancy Marks, pleaded guilty to fraud and implicated Santos in a scheme to embellish his campaign finance reports with a fake loan and fake donors.
Santos himself faces a 23-count federal indictment that alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Federal prosecutors say Santos sent some of the money to his personal bank account and used it to cover his campaign coffers.
Santos, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island, is also accused of falsely reporting to the Federal Election Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 when in fact he had given nothing and had less than $8,000 in the bank. The bogus loan was an attempt to convince Republican Party officials that he was a serious candidate worthy of their financial support, the indictment says.
Santos pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and pledged to clear his name. Marks' attorney said Marks would be willing to testify against Santos, which could deal a serious blow to the congressman. It was not immediately clear whether Miele agreed to testify against Santos.
Earlier this month, Santos survived a vote to expel him from Parliament. Most Republicans and 31 Democrats opposed the measure, while both his criminal case and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee are moving forward.
In an interview with The Associated Press in August, Santos said he immediately fired Miele at the end of 2021 after he was informed that Miele had impersonated Meyer.
Santos also recounted what he believed to be an attempt by Miele last summer to try to rejoin Santos' campaign. Santos said his campaign received a lunch invitation from a purported deep-pocketed donor named Reyem Nad — which is Dan Meyer on the back.
“It's like he's obsessive and compulsive with that name,” Santos said. “You and I, if we were caught doing something like that, the last thing we'd do is go anywhere near that name.”
Santos, who gained a reputation for fabricating significant parts of his life story during his candidacy, said he found out Miele had sent the invitation. Santos didn't go to the lunch, but sent Marks, who told Miele he wasn't getting his job back, according to a Santos spokesman.
Prosecutors said Miele's impersonation involved creating a fake email address that looked like Meyer's name as it addressed more than a dozen donors between August and December 2021.