Priest recalls George Santos cries of poverty – saying family could not afford a funeral for his mother

New York Congressman-elect George Santos may be facing some legal obstacles soon, after a number of inconsistencies in his resume came to light this week. New York Attorney General Letitia James is looking into “a number of issues raised about Santos,” her office confirmed Thursday.

After days of burgeoning questions about his claims about his past, Santos broke his silence Thursday, tweeting that he’ll have answers next week.

“To the people of #NY03 I have my story to tell and it will be told next week,” he tweeted. “I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on; Public safety, Inflation, Education & more.”

Key Speakers At The Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Meeting
Representative-elect George Santos, a Republican from New York, speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition

Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Father Jose Carlos da Silva, the pastor of Saint Rita’s Catholic Church, in Long Island City, Queens, says he knew Santos’ family, the Devolders, well. The Devolders came to the church once in a while, he told CBS News. They were Catholic — including George Santos — says da Silva. 

Da Silva said that when Santos’ mother, Fatima Devolder, died in 2016, Santos approached him — the priest had ministered to the family during Devolder’s illness — and told him the family couldn’t afford a funeral. Da Silva said Santos asked for help from the church. 

A memorial mass was held at the church, which held a collection for the family. Da Silva said he didn’t count the money collected, but recalled that the amount raised was significant, and he handed the collection directly to Santos. But da Silva’s portrayal of the family’s financial condition is at odds with the biography presented by Santos. 

His campaign website paints a picture of success: “George’s work ethic comes from his mother, who came from nothing, but worked her way up to be the first female executive at a major financial institution. On September 11, 2001, George’s mother was in her office in the South Tower. She survived the horrific events of that day, but unfortunately passed away a few years later.”

CBS News has verified evidence of a brush with the law in Brazil by Santos, first reported by The New York Times. A 2013 public notice from a Rio de Janeiro court accuses Santos of embezzlement, though it did not elaborate on the charges. It identifies George Anthony Devolder Santos as a 25-year-old American teacher who was single. The citation states that Santos, at the time of the charges, was in “an uncertain and unknown location” and therefore could not be summoned. The document gave Santos 10 days to produce materials for his defense.

In November, Santos was elected to represent parts of Long Island and Queens in Congress. A Republican, he won in a district previously held by a Democrat. Then earlier this week, the New York Times first reported that the candidate was running on a resume filled with apparently fabricated claims about his schooling and work. CBS News followed up on The Times’ reporting. Statements on his website that he had worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and that he had founded a tax-exempt pet rescue could not be verified by the two banks or by the IRS. All three mentions have been removed from his website, although it still says that he graduated from Baruch College, which also could not find a record of his matriculation there.

Multiple attempts by CBS News to reach Santos were unsuccessful. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns contributed to this report.

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