A veteran who has accused Rep. George Santos collected thousands of dollars in donations via GoFundMe for his dying service dog, and then stealing the money, handed over his text messages with the congressman to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation this week, according to Politico. Richard Osthoff, a 47-year-old veteran from New Jersey, was contacted by FBI agents Wednesday, Politico reported. “I’m glad to get the ball rolling with the big-wigs,” Osthoff told Politico. “I was worried that what happened to me was too long ago to be prosecuted.”
A spokesperson for Santos’s congressional office said that the investigation was “not a congressional matter” and directed a request for comment to Santos’s personal lawyer, Joe Murray. Murray did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York declined to comment. Osthoff was experiencing homelessness in 2016 when his dog Sapphire developed a stomach tumor, Patch reported last month. A veterinarian’s office referred him to Santos and his charity, Friends of Pets United, which set up a GoFundMe. But after the $3,000 goal was reached, Osthoff said, Santos stopped engaging with him. Santos, who Osthoff knew by the name Anthony Devolder, told Osthoff that the money would be “moved to the next animal in need,” according to text messages published by Patch. “He got so angry with me and he blew up and refused to give me the money and then just wouldn’t answer the calls anymore,” Osthoff told CNN last month. Sapphire’s tumor grew worse without treatment, and she died that year. Though Santos said in the text messages to Osthoff that his charity was “audited like every 501c3 [sic],” the Internal Revenue Service has no record of the charity’s existence, the New York Times reported in December.
Santos has been caught in numerous lies about his education and work history, among other things, since his election to Congress in November. He has denied stealing money from the dying dog, tweeting in January that the allegations were “shocking and insane.”But a spokesperson for GoFundMe told VICE News last month that when the company received a complaint about a fundraiser Santos was running on the site, and sought proof that the money was actually received by the cause it was intended for, Santos “failed to respond, which led to the fundraiser being removed and the email associated with that account prohibited from further use on our platform.” Santos is facing numerous other investigations, including a federal probe of his campaign finances. Officials with the Securities and Exchange Commission are also reportedly looking into Santos’s work for a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, according to the Washington Post. Before Harbor City Capital closed in 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the firm of running a “classic Ponzi scheme.” (The SEC has made no allegations about Santos specifically.) Santos was appointed to two House committees last month, but stepped down from those assignments earlier this week. Two New York Democratic congressmen, Reps. Richie Torres and Dan Goldman, filed a House Ethics Committee complaint against him in January. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has resisted pleas to call on Santos to resign from Congress, but said that Santos would be removed if he’s found to have broken the law.“If for some way when we go through [the House] Ethics [committee] that he has broken the law, then we will remove him, but it’s not my role,” McCarthy told reporters last week. “I believe in the rule of law. A person’s innocent until proven guilty.”Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.