In an astounding display of chutzpah and narcissistic detachment from reality, George Santos carries on in Congress as if it was totally normal to be hounded to resign by the very people who confidently voted for him before they found out the depth of his deception and dishonesty. The Seattle Times reports that most days he arrives on the House floor to deliver short speeches — celebrating women-owned small businesses, a special high school in his district or raising concern about various countries in crises. In short, he goes through the motions of being a Congressman while he fends off multiple investigations and protests to step down from the office.
Now a $19 million luxury yacht deal brokered by Santos between two of his wealthy donors has captured the attention of federal and state authorities investigating the congressman’s campaign finances and personal business dealings.
The sale, which has not been previously reported, is one of about a dozen leads being pursued by the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Nassau County district attorney’s office, people familiar with the investigation said.
Prosecutors and FBI agents have sought in recent weeks to question the new owner of the 141-foot superyacht — Raymond Tantillo, a Long Island auto dealer — about the boat and his dealings with Santos, including his campaign fundraising efforts.
Tantillo bought the boat from Mayra Ruiz, a Republican donor in Miami. Santos negotiated the payment — $12.25 million up front, with $6.5 million more in instalments — and advised the two on the logistics of turning over the yacht, according to a person familiar with the sale, which took place a few weeks before his election in November.
It is not clear what laws, if any, may have been broken in the transaction. Several election law experts said that if the sale was designed to inject money into Santos’ campaign, it might be in violation of federal law governing caps on campaign contributions. It could also be illegal if Santos tied any commission he received on the sale to previous or future donations. However, this could shed some light on the central mystery of Santos’ sudden, unexplained jump in income, and where he got the money to loan himself roughly $700,000 over the course of his 2022 campaign.
He has explained that windfall as the result of high-powered deals that he brokered. “If you’re looking at a $20 million yacht,” he told Semafor, “my referral fee there can be anywhere between $200,000 and $400,000.”
For once, there seems to be some truth to Santos’ claims; there was, in fact, a yacht worth nearly $20 million. In 2019, records show, John H. Ruiz, a Miami lawyer and businessman, bought a superyacht made by Italian yacht builder Mangusta. The yacht, which was listed at the time for 18 million euros, or $20 million, sleeps 12 guests and seven crew, and featured an infinity pool, a waterfall and an outdoor shower. Ruiz was very briefly a billionaire until shares in his company, MSP Recovery suddenly fell to a dollar when it went public. Ruiz’ wife, Mayra Ruiz contributed heavily to Santos’ campaign.
Santos, by many accounts, mingled campaign fundraising with personal business opportunities. Several donors have described encounters with Santos at fundraisers in which he would describe deals he could broker with other donors in industries including insurance and pharmaceuticals, or he would tell them about donors who were seeking to sell businesses or luxury items.
Ruiz did not respond to requests for comment and a lawyer for John Ruiz stated that her client “has already publicly disclosed that he does not know who George Santos is and has never contributed to his campaigns and has never done any business with him.”
Santos works hard at the fiction that he’s created. Just recently he stated, “I was elected by the people to come here to represent them, and I do that every day…It’s a hard job. If I said it was easy, I’d be lying to you — and I don’t think that’s what we want, right?” George Santos and truth: another one of his fictional relationships.
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