George Santos pocketed $3,000 in donations for dying dog, veteran alleges

Rep. George Santos (RN.Y.), under fire for a series of lies about his past, is accused of pocketing $3,000 from a GoFundMe page he created for a homeless veteran to help pay for surgery on a dying service dog. of man.

US Navy veteran Richard Osthoff told Patch that he was living in a tent off US 9 in New Jersey when his beloved service dog, Sapphire, developed a stomach tumor that put put his life at risk in 2016. After realizing he couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars needed for surgery on the pit bull mix, a vet tech recommended Osthoff contact a man named Anthony Devolder , who ran a pet charity that could help your dog.

Anthony Devolder was one of the aliases Santos used before he got into politics, and long before he lied about much of his biography to win a House seat. The pet charity Osthoff was referred to was Friends of Pets United. Neither the IRS nor the attorney general’s offices in New York and New Jersey found any record of a charity registered under that name, the New York Times reported.

After Santos helped Osthoff raise $3,000 through GoFundMe for Sapphire in the summer of 2016, the veteran said, he tried to contact the organizer to collect the money. But instead of a happy ending, Osthoff told Patch, Santos shut down and deleted the fundraising page and became more difficult to reach before he became completely unresponsive. “He stopped answering my texts and calls,” the veteran told the outlet.

Osthoff, now 47, said he never saw any of the money from the online fundraiser organized by Santos. Sapphire died in January 2017.

“The girl has never left my side in 10 years,” Osthoff said, adding that she had to beg to help pay for Sapphire’s end-of-life care.

Santos has denied the accusations and told the Semafor news site in a text message that the story is “false.” “I have no idea who he is,” he wrote to the outlet.

But Jalen Drummond, a GoFundMe spokesman, confirmed to The Washington Post on Wednesday that the fundraiser was real and linked to Santos.

“When we received a report of a problem with this fundraiser in late 2016, our trust and safety team sought evidence of the organizer’s delivery of funds,” Drummond said in a statement. “The organizer did not respond, which led to the fundraiser being removed and further use of the email associated with that account on our platform being prohibited.”

It added: “GoFundMe has a zero tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing.”

An official in Santos’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday to address the GoFundMe statement. It is not clear if the case was investigated by the police.

The charges are the latest in a series facing Santos, who has admitted lying about his résumé but has rejected calls from Democrats and Republicans for him to resign. Santos has faced questions on a variety of topics, from saying that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 “took the life of my mother” — she died in 2016 — to claiming as a client the cousin of a Russian oligarch. Rep. Ritchie Torres (DN.Y.) also called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate Santos’ campaign finances.

Santos, who won a Long Island seat in the midterms and helped give Republicans a narrow House majority, is expected to fill a seat on the House Small Business and Science, Space and Technology committees.

Beleaguered Rep. George Santos Assigned to Two House Committees

Osthoff, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2002. In 2016, he found himself living in an abandoned chicken coop on the side of a road in Howell, New Jersey. He said that the only salvation of his Grace was Sapphire, which was given to him by a group of veterans. Osthoff often posted photos of Sapphire on Facebook, capturing the dog’s big smile and what he described as “the adoring look he’d get when he’d talk to her or walk into her room.”

But the stomach tumor was getting worse, and Osthoff needed a miracle. Michael Boll, founder of the New Jersey Veterans Network, advised Osthoff and tried to help him find ways to help Sapphire. Osthoff and Boll thought they found a miracle in Santos, who promptly organized the 2016 online fundraiser titled “Click Here to Support Sapphire The Veteran Rescue! by Anthony Devolder.

“Sapphire is a 10-year-old red nose pitbull who has been keeping this man company, she doses [sic] She does not deserve to die from this tumor, she deserves to be treated and cared for,” reads a Facebook post from the account of George Devolder, another of Santos’s aliases. “Will you help this baby and her daddy stay together for a few more years? Doesn’t he deserve to have her? Let’s all come together to help this family of two stay healthy!”

It didn’t take long for the fundraiser to surpass the $3,000 needed for Sapphire’s surgery.

“We scored the goal, and then some,” Osthoff wrote on Facebook in late June 2016.

Osthoff and Sapphire went to a Queens veterinary practice in August 2016 recommended by Santos, the veteran recalled. Osthoff said Santos told him he had “credit” with the practice since he used it regularly for his own charity. The vet told Osthoff that Sapphire’s tumor was inoperable.

From there, Osthoff told Patch, Santos became increasingly elusive. The situation escalated in November 2016, when Santos allegedly told Osthoff that since the veteran “didn’t do things my way,” Santos transferred the funds for Sapphire’s surgery to his charity so they could be used.” for other dogs. When Osthoff demanded that Sapphire be allowed to take Sapphire to another vet because “she was going to die of God knows what,” Santos responded, “Remember, it’s our credibility that made the GoFundMe…contribute.”

“We are audited like all 501c3s and we hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity,” Santos said, according to screenshots of text messages obtained by Patch. “Sapphire is not a candidate for this surgery, the funds are transferred to the next animal that needs them and we will make sure to use the resources [sic] to keep her comfortable!”

Boll reminded the outlet how his efforts to mediate were unsuccessful.

“I contacted [Santos] and I told him, ‘You’re messing with a veteran,’ and that he needed to pay the money back or use it to get Osthoff another dog,” he said. “He was not cooperative at all over the phone.”

Osthoff was upset when he shared on Facebook in November 2016 that he never received any of the money raised for his pit bull mix.

“I am sorry to say that Anthony Devolder ripped us off,” Osthoff wrote. “Through a series of poor veterinary contacts and subterfuge regarding payment, Sapphire has received NO veterinary care, and her growth is three to four times greater than when the campaign was completed. She faces euthanasia in a few months.”

This isn’t the first time someone has accused Santos of ripping them off under the guise of pet charity. One woman told the Times last month that although she was supposed to be the beneficiary of a 2017 fundraiser where Santos charged $50 per person, she never received any of the funds. She said Santos offered a number of excuses as to why she never received the funds.

The latest allegations involving Santos sparked a new round of backlash from pundits, including former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois.

“If that story is true, George Santos shouldn’t be on any committee,” he said Wednesday on MSNBC. “That should be the last straw, if there is a last straw.”

Watching Santos rise to Congress, and that he admitted to fabricating much of his biography, has been a painful reminder for Osthoff. Boll told Patch that when he first heard about the man they knew as Anthony Devolder, he thought, “this is going to kill.” [Osthoff].”

Osthoff said Sapphire saved his life when he twice considered committing suicide. His Facebook page is still full of photos of the friend she lost six years ago.

“I loved that bitch so much,” he said, “I drew her last breaths when I put her down.”

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