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Who backed George Santos' $500,000 jail bond? He's still fighting to keep it secret

Rep. George Santos faces 13 federal charges.  The New York Republican is fighting to keep secret the names of individuals who backed his jail bond.
Brian Mann
/
NPR
Rep. George Santos faces 13 federal charges. The New York Republican is fighting to keep secret the names of individuals who backed his jail bond.

The public will have to wait at least a little longer to learn who backed the half-million-dollar bond that got Rep. George Santos out of jail.

Santos' attorney filed an appeal Friday arguing that if the people who co-signed the $500,000 bond are identified it could put them at risk of "attacks and harassment."

The scandal-plagued Republican from New York was arrested last month on federal fraud, money-laundering and theft charges. He pleaded not guilty.

At the time of the May 10 court hearing on Long Island, three different parties — known in legal parlance as "suretors" — co-signed the bond.

Their support effectively allowed Santos to walk free while the court case against him advances.

But who his backers are remains a mystery. Santos requested, and the federal court agreed, that their names be kept secret.

On May 25, a group of news organizations including NPR asked the court to reverse that decision. Attorneys representing media outlets argued in a legal filing that transparency serves the public interest.

"That the identities ... have been shielded from public scrutiny, particularly in light of the specific charges against Rep. Santos, only breeds suspicion that [they] could be lobbyists, donors, or even fellow-congressmen or public officials seeking to exert influence," wrote Jeremy Chase and Alexandra Settelmayer with the firm Davis Wright Tremaine.

On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields agreed, saying the names should be released, but she gave Santos' legal team time to file today's appeal.

In his latest filing, Santos attorney Joseph Murray argued again that the political climate surrounding the lawmaker is so volatile it could put suretors at risk if they're identified.

"There is great concern for the health, safety, and well-being" of the individuals backing Santos, Murray wrote.

Santos won election last November in New York's 3rd Congressional District. Shortly after, news accounts revealed that he fabricated much of his personal and professional resume, lying about his family's heritage, his education and his professional accomplishments.

Those actions sparked numerous local, state and federal elections — including an ongoing review by the House Ethics Committee — and led to Santos' indictment on 13 federal charges.

Santos has acknowledged some of his deceptions but repeatedly denied any criminal wrongdoing.

Financial backing of Santos' bond is only one unanswered question about the sources of his money. Critics say it's also unclear how he funded his congressional campaign and how he spent that money.

In Friday's filing, Santos' attorney does appear to provide some clues about the identities of his suretors, suggesting they may be relatives of the congressman.

In a note to the court, attorney Joseph Murray suggests the judge might reveal just enough information to show "the existence of a 'family' relationship between the defendant ... without identifying the name or type of family member."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.