A second person connected to the campaign of Representative George Santos of New York has pleaded guilty to federal charges, an ominous sign as the embattled congressman’s own case moves closer to trial.
Samuel Miele pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of wire fraud in connection to a fund-raising scheme for his and Mr. Santos’s benefit.
Appearing before a federal judge in Central Islip, N.Y., Mr. Miele admitted to impersonating a House staffer while soliciting funds for Mr. Santos. He will be sentenced on April 30. A lawyer for Mr. Miele, Kevin Marino, said that his client took “full responsibility” for his actions, butdeclined to say whether Mr. Miele’s plea included an agreement with federal prosecutors to testify against Mr. Santos.
Mr. Santos, a Republican representing parts of Long Island and Queens, has not been charged in connection with Mr. Miele’s efforts. The indictment did not name Mr. Santos, who has said that he was unaware of Mr. Miele’s efforts. Shortly after the ruse was detected by Republican leadership, Mr. Santos fired Mr. Miele.
Prosecutors accused Mr. Miele, 27, of carrying out a fund-raising scheme in the fall of 2021 to aid Mr. Santos’s ultimately successful election campaign for the House. Claiming to be a “high-ranking aide to a member of the House with leadership responsibilities,” Mr. Miele solicited donors, prosecutors said, over phone calls and emails that he signed using another man’s name. For his efforts, prosecutors say, he was paid 15 percent on whatever he brought in.
The indictment, filed this August, did not identify the staffer that Mr. Miele was said to have impersonated, though The New York Times and others have reported that it was Dan Meyer, who was then chief of staff to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Mr. Miele had been charged with four counts of wire fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.
Joseph Murray, a lawyer for Mr. Santos who attended the hearing, declined to comment.
Mr. Santos is facing 23 of his own felony counts, including wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors say that Mr. Santos, 35, used multiple methods to steal tens of thousands of dollars from donors to his campaign, which he used to buy luxury goods and pay off personal debts. They have charged him with falsifying campaign filings, including reporting a $500,000 loan that had not been made when it was reported. And they have accused him of collecting unemployment funds when he was, in fact, employed.
Mr. Santos has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Earlier this month, he survived a second effort to expel him from Congress, this one led by members of his own party. That resolution, introduced by Representative Anthony D’Esposito, a first-term Republican representing a neighboring district on Long Island, cited his now well-known history of duplicity as well as the ongoing criminal case against him. It was resoundingly defeated, with both Republicans and Democrats agreeing that such an action would be premature without a conviction.
Mr. Santos has insisted that such a conviction will never come, calling the proceedings a “witch hunt” and rebuffing calls for his resignation.
But the guilty plea of Mr. Miele, which comes just over a month after that of Mr. Santos’s campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, is an inauspicious sign for the congressman.
Like Ms. Marks, Mr. Miele was a member of Mr. Santos’s inner circle, involved not only in his congressional campaign but also his personal business ventures.
The congressman is also facing scrutiny from the House Ethics Committee, which has signaled that it is drawing close to the conclusion of its monthslong investigation. That panel, which is made up of both Democrats and Republicans, is expected to issue a report and recommendations later this week.