FBI Closing-In on George Santos – Now It’s a Credit Card Fraud Ring
By Rupert Deedes
With the FBI already assembling criminal charges over Congressman George Santos, a new criminal caper – this one involving credit card fraud – has Santos implicated in the plot.
The FBI has already interviewed and retrieved information on Santos stealing $3000 in charity contributions raised for emergency surgery for the service dog of disabled US Navy veteran Richard Osthoff – which resulted in the surgery being canceled, and the veteran's dog dying.
The FBI has also retrieved records of Santos passing over $10,000 in bad checks after picking-up puppies from Pennsylvania – which Santos then re-sold in New York City.
Now, the latest Santos criminal revelation is about ATMs in Seattle, Washington.
Six years ago, on 27 April 2017, a security officer at a branch of Chase Bank in Seattle noticed a man removing a card-skimming device from an ATM. The police was alerted, and arrived minutes later to arrest an Orlando, Florida Brazilian national named Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha.
Trelha, cooperated with the Seattle detectives, allowing them to search his rental car, in which they found an empty FedEx package with a sender address in Winter Park, Florida.
That address was George Santos's apartment.
CBS News reported that six months earlier, in October 2016, Santos was issued a ticket for failing to stop at a red light in Florida, and that he listed the same Winter Park apartment as his address.
Law enforcement source confirmed to CBS News that Santos was interviewed as part of the ATM probe, but refused to say whether Santos was ever a suspect in the credit card investigation.
Attorney Tiffany Bogosian, a Brazilian-American and an acquaintance of Santos, told CBS News that Santos, in 2020, told her he had served as a “confidential informant” in the Trelha credit card fraud case.
Court documents show that Trelha told investigators that he was paid $100 per day by a group based in Brazil and Florida to remove and replace ATM card skimmers. In his hotel room in SeaTac, Washington, detectives found another skimming device, three modified ATM cameras, identification bearing a pseudonym — Matos Fontinele — and 10 fraudulent cards linked to stolen numbers.
Prosecutors told the court that Trelha compromised nearly 300 accounts with the card skimmer in just three days in Seattle. They said each night Trelha uploaded skimmed account information to a "cloud" service, to be accessed by a Brazilian criminal group.
Trelha, who had been in jail for seven months by then, was sentenced to time served and was then turned over to immigration authorities and deported back to Brazil.
Bogosian said she learned of the Seattle episode while offering Santos advice, as a friend, on a Pennsylvania warrant related to the bounced checks. Amish dog breeders accused Santos of paying with bad checks for puppies, accusations which led to a theft charge, but Santos argued his checkbook had been stolen, and the charge was later expunged.