George Santos is facing questions about his involvement in the sale of a superyacht between two campaign donors, shortly before the November election.
Santos, 34, arranged the sale in September of the 141-foot Namaste – an Italian-designed luxury yacht which sleeps 12 in five cabins, and boasts an infinity pool with a waterfall and underwater lighting.
The yacht was being sold by John Ruiz, a lawyer and billionaire businessman, and his wife Mayra, who was among Santos’s biggest donors. She contributed $10,800 to Santos’s joint fund-raising committee in March 2022, and was among the first to donate after he won the election.
The buyer was another big donor, Raymond Tantillo, a Long Island car dealer who gave Santos more than $17,000. Tantillo’s two ex-wives also generously supported Santos’s political efforts.
The sale, first reported by The New York Times, was legal, but Santos’s role in it could have violated campaign finance laws if he used the proceeds for his campaign.
The 141-ft Namaste, known now as Neverland, was sold by Mayra Ruiz and bought by Raymond Tantillo – both donors to Santos’s campaign
Santos is seen during the State of the Union address by Joe Biden on February 7
Raymond Tantillo (left), a Long Island car dealer, bought the yacht from Mayra Ruiz (right) and her husband John, a Miami-based lawyer and businessman
Campaign contribution caps could have been breached if the sale was designed to boost his campaign.
It could also have been illegal if Santos in any way linked his referral fee to previous or future donations.
It is unclear how much money he made from bringing the two sides together – if indeed he was paid for his services this time.
Santos has previously explained that he made a living connecting wealthy people – a job he termed ‘capital introduction’.
In December, Santos told Semafor that if a client wanted to sell a plane or a boat, he would ‘put that feeler out there’ among his contacts.
He told the site he had sealed a couple of million-dollar contracts.
‘If you’re looking at a $20 million yacht, my referral fee there can be anywhere between $200,000 and $400,000,’ he said.
Namaste was priced at $20 million and was changed hands in November 2022 for $18.75 million – it also had its name changed and is now called Neverland.
Namaste is pictured before its launch. It was built by Italian company Mangusta
John Ruiz’s lawyer Christine Lugo told The New York Times he ‘does not know who George Santos is and has never contributed to his campaigns and has never done any business with him.’
Tantillo’s lawyer, Robert Curtis Gottlieb, said: ‘I have every reason to believe that Mr Tantillo will not be charged for anything, including the purchase of a boat or campaign contributions.’
Santos’s team have not commented on his role.
The yacht sale is just the latest in a long line of strange stories about the New York congressman, who has been found to have lied about his education, family life, career and contacts.
Santos filed paperwork on Tuesday indicating his intent to run for reelection, even as he faces calls to resign amid ongoing criminal and ethics investigations into lies he told while running for office.
The filing with the Federal Election Commission does not necessarily mean that Santos will run for a second term, but it allows his campaign committees to continue raising money, some of which could be used to pay future legal bills.
Money he raises could also be used to repay more than $700,000 that he claimed to have loaned his campaign.
The New York Republican has admitted to lying about having Jewish ancestry, a Wall Street background, college degrees and a history as a star volleyball player.
But serious questions about his finances have also surfaced — including the source of what he claimed was a quickly amassed fortune despite recent financial problems, including evictions and owing thousands of dollars in back rent.
He has referred to the fabrications as harmless embellishments of his resume.
Santos, seen on Tuesday, is facing multiple questions about his lies
Santos’s Republican colleagues have turned on him. Anthony D’Esposito (center) is seen on March 7 flanked by two other New York congressmen – Nick Lalota (right) and Brandon Williams (left) – introducing a bill that prevents members of Congress from profiting from media appearances and book deals if convicted of a crime
Pressure on him to resign surfaced almost immediately after the New York Times uncovered inconsistencies in his public record. Fellow New York Republicans have demanded that he resign, saying he had betrayed voters and his own party with his lies.
In 2017, he was charged with criminal theft in Pennsylvania in connection with bad checks apparently used to buy puppies from dog breeders, according to a lawyer who said she helped the Republican with the case.
Those charges, however, were later expunged, according to the lawyer.
As a young man, he faced charges in Brazil — still unresolved — alleging that he used a fraudulent check to buy clothes.