A former campaign aide to Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a wire fraud charge related to his role in a fundraising scheme for the representative’s 2022 campaign.
Sam Miele, 27, was indicted in August on federal charges of wire fraud and identity theft for allegedly impersonating a “high-ranking aide to a member of the House with leadership responsibilities” via email and telephone as part of an alleged scheme in 2021 to solicit funds for Santos’ 2022 campaign under false pretenses.
According to the indictment, Miele created a fake email address and used the aide’s name to get over a dozen prospective donors to give money to Santos’ campaign between August and December of 2021, and kept 15% of the commissions from each donation for himself.
The person who Miele impersonated was not named in the indictment. Reports have indicated that it was Dan Meyer, an aide to then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), but the identity has not been confirmed, according to the Guardian.
In the indictment, prosecutors said Miele sent a letter to Santos in September 2022 admitting to faking his identity to a big donor, later describing himself as “high risk, high reward in everything I do.”
But Santos claimed he was unaware of the impersonation, and told The Associated Press in August that he promptly fired Miele after finding out.
Santo’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
According to NBC News, Miele also admitted in his plea to using the aide’s name to solicit donations between August and December of 2021.
“I pretended I was the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in some telephone calls and emails with potential donors, including an email on August 19, 2021, which used interstate wires. I did that to help me raise funds for the congressional campaign I was working on,” he wrote in a plea form to the judge.
He also admitted in his plea to running payments of about $100,000 to several donor credit cards without authorization between November 2020 and January 2023 for donations to candidates running for Congress, and his own personal expenses.
Miele’s sentencing is scheduled for April 30, 2024, according to the Department of Justice. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Miele is the second aide to plead guilty in connection to Santos, following behind Nancy Marks, an ex-treasurer of Santo’s campaign who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge last month for falsely recording a $500,000 loan in the campaign financial reports that Santos had made to his campaign.
Santos faces separate charges after being indicted in May for wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements to Congress and the Federal Election Commission. He pleaded not guilty.
Last month, Santos was also faced with a 23-count indictment charging him with stealing his campaign donor identities and financial information, and charging thousands of dollars to their credit cards. Santos pleaded not guilty, and his criminal trial is scheduled for September 2024.