People have a lot of questions about incoming Republican congressman George Santos: Where was he born? Where did he go to school? What’s his professional background? Has he always been a serial liar? What does “Jew-ish” mean? What kind of monster lies about their mother dying on 9/11?
But really, the only question that matters is the one that Bruno Simões — the former shop clerk who Santos defrauded nearly 15 years ago — asked when speaking with CNN on Wednesday: “How is it possible for a criminal, an embezzler, to be elected as a congressman?” (Someone should tell Simões about Donald Trump!)
Earlier this week, authorities in Brazil announced that they would be reviving a long-dormant embezzlement case against Santos for buying some snazzy new duds with a stolen checkbook when he was 19. Documents obtained by CNN confirmed reports that, in 2010, Santos admitted to stealing the checkbook in a statement given to police. But Santos never showed up for his literal day in court. In 2013, after years of being unable to locate his whereabouts, the investigation was suspended. Then came 2022… and a long-wanted criminal suspect showed up in New York, running for congress!
As Simões explained to CNN, he remembers his interaction with Santos very clearly — because he was suspicious of the teenager shopper, who did his best to charm the then-clerk. Simões even attempted to verify the checks. When it was eventually determined that they were fraudulent, the then-clerk’s boss forced him to pay the damages, which equaled what would take him four months to make. “Simões paid in installments before the shop owner waived the remaining amount,” according to CNN.
Still, Simões felt victimized by the crime, telling CNN:
I was very frustrated. Being deceived is a terrible feeling. Unlike being mugged by someone with a gun who robs you, you might get angry, but being deceived, being fooled, someone acting in bad faith to steal from you, to me, it’s an even worse feeling.
Unfortunately, I’ve been robbed in Brazil when I was younger, by someone armed… and I can guarantee you that I felt more frustrated in George’s case, who abused my good faith.
“Even though he confessed to his crime, he never looked me up to pay his debt,” Simões added, noting he doesn’t expect that he’ll ever see that money back from Santos. But you can imagine his shock when he learned that someone so devious had actually been voted into a position of power in U.S. government.
Simões says he wanted to make his voice heard as a victim of Santos because, “it looks like he hasn’t learned and is still investing in this career of fraud, faking information, and lying.”
Simões only learned of Santos’ appointment to the House of Representatives when a local reporter in Brazil contacted him to comment. “Honestly, it was a mix of shock and a comical scene,” he said of his reaction to the news. “It was surreal to me to see the image of him in a suit. I saw his photo and I remembered very clearly the photos I had seen of him when he was 19 years old. I said, ‘How is it possible for a criminal, an embezzler, to be elected as a congressman?’ To me that was unbelievable.”