Was George Santos The Dashing ATM Robber Gentleman Bandit?
George Santos, who as far as we know may actually be Andy Kaufman [Dok, you say everyone is Andy Kaufman! — Rebecca], allegedly ran a credit-card-skimming operation in Seattle in 2017, according to the man convicted of the crime and deported to Brazil for it. Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, who roomed with Santos at the time, sent a sworn declaration to US law enforcement agencies detailing the accusation, according to Politico, which obtained a copy of the declaration and also interviewed Trelha by phone.
At this point, we're ready to believe just about anything about Santos, including the possibility that he's actually an alien time traveler fucking around with us while he's on spring break from Tralfamadore Polytechnic.
In the declaration (translated from his native Portuguese), 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.” He said that he recognized Santos on TV after he was elected to Congress.
Politico reports that postal receipts show the declaration was sent to the FBI, the US Secret Service, and the US Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, by Trelha's New York attorney, Mark Demetropoulos.
And by golly, there are some definite connections: Politico reports it's seen a copy of a lease showing that Trelha rented a room in Santos's apartment in Winter Park, Florida, starting in November 2016. As Politico notes, Santos
was previously questioned about the Seattle scheme by investigators for the U.S. Secret Service, CBS News has reported. He was never charged, but the investigation remains open. Santos also told an attorney friend he was “an informant” in the fraud case. Trelha insists he was its mastermind.
And golly, what a tale! The two met through a Facebook group for expatriate Brazilians living in Orlando in the fall of 2016. Trelha writes that while he rented from Santos, that was "where and when I learned from him how to clone ATM and credit cards."
Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards. He gave me all the materials and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines.
He alleges Santos had a warehouse in Orlando where he
had a lot of material — parts, printers, blank ATM and credit cards to be painted and engraved with stolen account and personal information.
Santos gave me at his warehouse, some of the parts to illegally skim credit card information. Right after he gave me the card skimming and cloning machines, he taught me how to use them.
We do have to say that while this sounds plausible, the idea that George Santos actually mastered any real skills, even criminal ones, seems out of character. We can see him lying about being a criminal genius, though, and lying well enough to fool someone else into actually doing crimes.
After training under Santos in the ways of the scammer — we can certainly envision a montage here, with hilarious failures and no actual success — Trelha says, he flew to Seattle and got arrested right quick, on April 27, 2017, when a security camera captured him removing a skimming device from a Chase ATM.
At the time of his arrest, Trelha had a fake Brazilian ID card and 10 suspected fraudulent cards in his hotel room, according to police documents. An empty FedEx package police found in his rental car was sent from the Winter Park unit he shared with Santos.
But did they scan it for alien DNA? Big oversight, guys.
It gets, as you'd expect, stupider. Trelha wrote in his declaration that Santos had promised him to split the money from their frauding 50-50, and that it was all very high-tech:
We used a computer to be able to download the information on the pieces. We also used an external hard drive to save the filming, because the skimmer took the information from the card, and the camera took the password.
It didn’t work out so well, because I was arrested.
Has Netflix or HBO snapped up the movie rights yet?
Trelha said Santos visited him in jail in Seattle, and told him "not to say anything about him." What's more, he says Santos "threatened my friends in Florida that I must not say that he was my boss." The friends, he wrote, were "all afraid of something happening to them," which is why he's since lost track of them.
Then there's this, which has the ring of absolute authenticity: Trelha concludes the narrative by saying, "Santos did not help me to get out of jail. He also stole the money that I had collected for my bail."
That's our George all right!
Politico adds that in an interview, Trelha said that
before flying to Seattle, Santos had traveled to Orlando to pick up $20,000 in cash he instructed Leide Oliveira Santos, another roommate, to give him from a safe. Santos had promised to hire El Chapo’s lawyer for Trelha, he said.
Again, that's very Santosian or Santosesque: not just any lawyer, but El Chapo's lawyer. What's more, we get a little more documented fibbing by Santos:
In an audio recording of Trelha’s May 15, 2017 arraignment in King County Superior Court, Santos tells the judge he’s a “family friend” who was there to secure a local Airbnb if the defendant was released on bail.
Santos also claimed to the judge he worked for Goldman Sachs in New York, a key part of his campaign biography he later admitted wasn’t true.
They should have asked his wife, Morgan Fairchild, whom he has seen naked more than once.
But nah, it all evaporated. No El Chapo lawyer, not even an el cheapo lawyer. Santos didn't even call Saul — or Lionel Hutz — and Trelha never heard another word from him. Oliveira Santos couldn't contact him, either. By then, Santos had run off to Venice, where he took to calling himself Tom Ripley.
Trelha couldn't make bail, and pleaded guilty to "felony access device fraud," for which he spent seven months in prison. After that, he was deported to Brazil in 2018, where we hope he's kept his nose clean.
Trelha says he has witnesses who can back him up on all this, and Politico closes the story thusly:
A federal prosecutor who handled Trelha’s case described the scheme as “sophisticated,” adding that the Seattle portion was only “the tip of the iceberg,” according to court records reported by CBS News. But a person close to the investigation who is not authorized to speak publicly said they saw no evidence that prosecutors did forensic reports on Trelha’s phone or seemed motivated to pursue international co-conspirators.
We tried to contact Rep. Santos about all this, but all we could learn was that the congressman was last seen talking to a detective in Los Angeles who tried to follow him when he realized Santos was Keyzer Söze, but by then he'd vanished.
[Politico / ATM image by Mike Mozart, Creative Commons License 2.0, cropped and digitally altered]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.