• The Handbasket
  • Posts
  • Former Santos roommate says he was ringleader of credit card skimming scheme

Former Santos roommate says he was ringleader of credit card skimming scheme

George says it's not true. A likely story.

Up until now, George Santos has been near crimes: he’s brushed against them and breathed the same air, but there hasn’t been that crucial link tying him directly to a particular crime. All that changed on Thursday, when a sworn affidavit from his former roommate in Florida who was arrested for credit card fraud in 2017 was released. George, he says, was the mastermind of the whole operation.

In the affidavit, obtained and published by Politico, Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha writes, “I am coming forward today to declare that the person in charge of the crime of credit card fraud when I was arrested was George Santos / Anthony Devolder.” In the 1.5 page document, Trelha describes how Santos taught him to skim credit card information and clone cards, provided him with all the necessary equipment to do it, his mission to Seattle to get it done, and his subsequent arrest and deportation to Brazil. 

CBS News first reported in late February that George had been questioned by the secret service after Trelha’s arrest, but his connection to the alleged crime was unclear. (I even got to go on MSNBC and say “credit card skimming scheme” without messing up!) With Trelha’s affidavit, however, George is now in—how do you say it in Portuguese?—deep shit. 

He tweeted a half-hearted denial after the story was published Thursday evening, further proving my theory that he’s losing steam. 

Is that really all you’ve got, George? No weird idiom that no one’s ever used before? Disappointing. 

As you might recall, just a week after he was sworn into Congress, Talking Points Memo reported that donors to the Santos campaign alleged they were ripped off. One donor who contributed $1,000 to his 2020 campaign became part of “a long odyssey that they said resulted in more than $15,000 in false credit card charges.” But since then, we’ve learned it’s just one of many sketchy pieces of George’s campaign finances, which are currently under investigation.

And with all this talk of credit cards, I keep coming back to someone else: Jennifer Vartanov. I published an investigative feature last week about the Long Island businesswoman and Jericho School District Board of Education Trustee who, along with her husband, donated a combined $23,000 to George’s 2022 campaign. The Vartanovs founded a credit card processing company called Merchant Industries, and have launched several offshoots. 

It feels far too coincidental that George would become besties with someone in the credit card business in light of the news that he allegedly operated the 2017 skimming scheme. George connected with Vartanov over her crusade to stop the opening of a homeless shelter in 2020. What did he get in return?

Have a Santos-related tip? Email [email protected]

Join the conversation

or to participate.