Federal law enforcement agencies are investigating a US Navy veteran’s claim that Rep. George Santos raised money for life-saving surgery for his dying dog, only to make off with the money.
Rich Osthoff, the veteran, told CNN he spoke to two FBI agents about the incident Wednesday on behalf of the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which is investigating Santos’ finances. Osthoff said he cooperated with the agents’ requests, including handing over his text message exchanges with Santos.
CNN has reached out to Santos’ attorney for comment. Santos did not respond to questions about the matter when asked by reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, and a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York declined to comment.
Politico first reported on the development.
Osthoff told CNN last month that Santos promised in 2016 to raise funds for his pit bull, Sapphire. Osthoff said he was homeless at the time and living in a tent after losing his job and home.
Santos set up a GoFundMe, which eventually raised around $3,000. A post from George Devolder’s Facebook profile at the time links to a GoFundMe website that raises funds for surgery for the dog.
Osthoff said Santos became uncooperative when he tried to access GoFundMe’s money.
Santos, a New York Republican, told CNN in January that he had “no idea” what Osthoff was talking about and was defending his work with animals.
Text messages Osthoff provided to CNN also show his exchange with Santos in 2016.
“Hey Anthony, Rich here. I was hoping to hear from you. I’m just checking to see if you’ve contacted the vet,” Osthoff wrote in a text to Santos, then known as Anthony Devolder.
Santos responds that he “just called” Osthoff and “jumped through hoops.” He adds, “You’re not as flexible as you said,” apparently referring to vet Osthoff.
Santos also writes that a vet had “already ruled out surgery without an ultrasound because he believes it’s very invasive based on his experience,” but he tells Osthoff he’ll take the dog to the vet for an ultrasound “to To give you a piece of mind.”
After Osthoff says: “Slowly I feel liked [SIC] I was taken down for donations from my family and friends,” Santos tells him, since his dog is not a candidate for surgery, “the funds will be passed on to the next animal in need and we will make sure we use it [SIC] Resources to make her comfortable!”