The three people on the hook for George Santos's $500,000 are anonymous in court filings.
"That is information you'll never get," Santos said when asked about their identities.
In recent months, he's become supportive of exiled Chinese tycoon and Republican patron Guo Wengui.
A member of Congress isn't in jail and we don't know why.
Last month, federal prosecutors in New York brought a 13-count indictment against Rep. George Santos, a Republican who represents part of Long Island.
According to charging documents, Santos personally stole donations to his campaign operation, illegally took pandemic employment funds, and lied to Congress on financial forms.
Instead of keeping Santos in jail until his criminal trial, a judge allowed him to be released on a $500,000 bond.
Three people, under the judge's terms, would guarantee that bail amount — meaning they'd be on the hook for all that cash if Santos broke his bond conditions by failing to show up in court or traveling outside of New York and Washington, DC.
In other words, a member of a closely-divided House of Representatives owes his freedom to three people.
Who are they? Their identities, bizarrely, remain secret.
But I have a pretty good theory.
There's a very strong chance that one person putting up the money — directly or indirectly — is the jailed exiled Chinese billionaire tycoon Guo Wengui.
Even Ghislaine Maxwell and SBF didn't get this kind of secrecy
Santos certainly doesn't want us to know who these bond sponsors are. Speaking to members of the media outside the federal court in Central Islip after he entered his not-guilty plea, the congressman said we would "never" find out the identities of the three sureties.
"That is information you'll never get," he said. "Because your intention is to go harass them and make their life miserable. You're not getting that."
In court proceedings, the identities of the sponsors have been shrouded in extraordinary secrecy.
The bond documents, which are supposed to include their names, have not been publicly filed. The court held a secret hearing with the sureties, according to a filing from the New York Times. We don't even know the explanation from prosecutors and Santos's defense attorneys behind any arguments to keep the documents sealed. No indication of sealed documents or hearings even appear on the public docket.
Insider — along with a group of other news organizations — have asked US District Judge Joanna Seybert, who is now overseeing the case, to unseal all records related to the bond sponsors (as has the Times, in a separate application). The decision to keep these documents sealed, Jeremy A. Chase and Alexandra Settelmayer at the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP wrote in the filing, is totally out of step with the public's presumption of access to judicial documents. It's particularly important in a case like this, where Santos is an elected official and must make financial disclosures to Congress.
"Rep. Santos has been criminally charged with fraud that directly relates to his role as an elected official in Congress, eroding public confidence in our government institutions and political leaders," they wrote. "Given Rep. Santos' role as a public servant, access to the identity of the bond sureties will bolster trust in the judicial process here."
There's little precedent for this secrecy. Earlier this year, lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, fought to keep the identities of the two sponsors of his mammoth $250 million bond package under seal. The arguments in that case, at least, were filed on the public docket — Bankman-Fried's lawyers were concerned they'd be harassed by members of the media and the public.
The judge overseeing his case sided with Insider and other media organizations and unsealed bond records, revealing their identities. (Bankman-Fried's bond guarantors are Larry Kramer and Andreas Paepcke — both have ties to Stanford University, which employs his parents.)
"The non-parental bail sureties have entered voluntarily into a highly publicized criminal proceeding by signing the individual bonds," US District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in the decision.
Even the identities of the people who offered to post bail for Ghislaine Maxwell, the associate of Jeffrey Epstein who was ultimately convicted of trafficking girls to him for sex, were made public in court documents.
"The unique stigma of association with Epstein, Maxwell, and their ring of pedophilia, sexual abuse of minors, and sex trafficking no doubt animated the Court's decision to permit the names of those proposing to post her bail — which was ultimately denied — to be kept a secret," lawyers for media organizations wrote in the filing for the Santos case.
"None of these concerns are present here. While Rep. Santos is accused of serious financial crimes, a public association with him does not carry nearly the same stigma as with the Jeffrey Epstein child sex trafficking scandal."
Santos sure likes Guo Wengui
Around the same time Santos was indicted, and shortly before he needed the bail money, he apparently picked up an interest in a very rich person: Guo Wengui.
More specifically, he developed an interest in Guo's own bail problems.
Federal prosecutors brought an indictment against Guo in March, accusing him of running a complicated billion-dollar fraud scheme that stole money from his political supporters.
From his Manhattan penthouse, Guo had cut a complicated figure situated in the middle of relations between the United States and China, which he left in 2014.
Guo claimed to be exiled from his home in China for blowing the whistle on corruption, and has fashioned himself as a patron of right-wing rabble-rousers, including Steve Bannon (who himself is under indictment for allegations that he oversaw a fraud scheme that stole money from political supporters). Forbes calculated his net worth to be $1.1 billion in 2015, and more recent media reports have referred to him as a billionaire. Some experts believe Guo may be a spy for China.
One of Guo's and Bannon's projects is the New Federal State of China, which purports to be a government in exile that will take over China once the Chinese Communist Party is overthrown. Prosecutors allege Guo illegally took money from the Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society, two nonprofits he founded that have similar policy objectives. (Guo and Bannon have both pleaded not guilty in their respective cases.)
The judge overseeing Guo's case denied giving him bail, siding with prosecutors who argued he was a flight risk because of his vast wealth, ties abroad, and connections to powerful people.
This upset, of all people, a certain member of Congress representing a sliver of Long Island.
"Miles Guo has been detained since March 15 without bail? The #CCP corruption runs deep," Santos tweeted on May 4, using another one of Guo's many names. (An affinity for using multiple names, which are variations of each other, is something Guo shares with George Anthony Devolder Santos.)
"Miles Guo is a political prisoner of the CCP inside the United States," Santos said in a tweet two days later. "Let that sink in."
—George Santos (@Santos4Congress) May 6, 2023
The next week, Santos was in custody himself, for his own alleged fraud scheme.
Waiting outside court, in Santos's posse, was Cait Corrigan, a failed Republican congressional candidate and another supporter of Guo.
There were also a number of other unidentified individuals who appeared to be affiliated with the New Federal State of China movement, including one who appeared to wear a pin with the movement's logo.
—Resident NY3 (@Ny3Resident) June 1, 2023
—mrs panstreppon (@mrspanstreppon) May 10, 2023
Santos didn't respond to Insider's request for comment, and his attorney Joe Murray declined to comment.
Attorneys representing Guo didn't respond to a request for comment, either.
Santos doesn't have many other deep-pocketed supporters, particularly none with a high tolerance for risk.
Even before prosecutors accused him of bilking money from donors, he had trouble raising funds following media reports revealing he was a serial fabulist, lying about everything from his education to his mother's death. An April financial disclosure indicated he returned more than $8,000 in donor contributions, which exceeded the $5,300 he raised in the year's first quarter.
In contrast, a Republican member of Congress in a neighboring district raised more than $500,000 from individual donors and political action funds, according to the New York Times.
So, is Guo one of Santos's bail sponsors? Someone else from the New Federal State of China movement using his money?
We may find out for sure soon.
The judge set a deadline of Friday for Santos and the Justice Department to respond to the applications made by media organizations to unseal the identities of the three bail sponsors.
Read the original article on Business Insider