Rep. George Santos’ former campaign treasurer, who pleaded guilty Thursday in connection with the criminal case against her former boss, fabricated donations to make it appear as though Santos, R-N.Y., had a much larger campaign haul, according to court documents.
Nancy Marks admitted that she made up campaign contributions from her family members and Santos’ to give the appearance in Federal Election Commission filings and to the GOP that Santos had exceeded a specific threshold as a candidate in 2021, the charging document against her said.
The campaign needed to show $250,000 in donations in a single quarter from third-party contributors, but Marks “falsely reported” contributions from 10 family members, according to the charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a news release Thursday that “the purpose of the scheme was to ensure that the Candidate and his campaign qualified for a program administered by the national party committee, pursuant to which the national party committee would provide financial and logistical support to the Candidate and his campaign committee.”
The criminal information document also said Marks and Santos falsely reported to the FEC that Santos lent the campaign significant sums of cash — including a $500,000 loan — even though Santos neither made the loans nor had the money to do so.
The charging document further says prosecutors have text messages between Marks and Santos, who is not named but is referred to as “Co-Conspirator #1” and identified by his role as an official elected last year to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District.
An attorney for Marks did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
Reached for comment Thursday, Santos spokeswoman Gabrielle Lipsy said, “Official offices cannot comment on these matters.”
In May, Santos pleaded not guilty to a 13-count federal indictment that charged him with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. He was released on $500,000 bond on conditions that included the surrender of his passport and judicial approval for travel outside New York and Washington, D.C.
At the time, he called the charges “inaccurate” and said he would clear his name.
The FEC this year requested information from the Santos campaign after a person listed as his campaign treasurer had denied he had taken the job.
“It has come to the attention of the Federal Election Commission that you may have failed to include the true, correct, or complete treasurer information” in a recent filing, said a letter from the FEC.
An attorney for Datwyler, however, told NBC News at the time that his client had never agreed to accept the position and had no intention of working for the campaign.
Santos first came under scrutiny last year after The New York Times published a bombshell investigation showing that much of his résumé appeared to have been fabricated, including claims that he owned numerous properties, was previously employed by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and had graduated from Baruch College. Santos responded days later by admitting he had embellished parts of his résumé, including information about his education and employment history. He has faced repeated calls for his resignation.
Santos is due in court on Oct. 27 for a status conference. The conference was initially scheduled for Sept. 7, but prosecutors and Santos’ lawyers requested more time in part because “the parties have continued to discuss possible paths forward in this matter” and “wish to have additional time to continue those discussions,” sparking speculation about a possible plea deal.
Santos told CNN last month that he was not in discussions about any deal.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Jonathan Dienst is chief justice contributor for NBC News and chief investigative reporter for WNBC-TV in New York.
Rebecca Shabad is a politics reporter for NBC News based in Washington.
Zoë Richards is the evening politics reporter for NBC News.