The U.S. Secret Service has received and is reviewing a sworn declaration from a Brazilian man who claims Rep. George Santos was the mastermind of a fraud scheme that led to the man’s arrest in 2017 for installing skimmers at a Seattle bank ATM.
Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha claimed Santos taught him how to use skimmers — which steal personal information from cards inserted into ATM machines — when they were roommates near Orlando, Florida.
Trelha was arrested at Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 2017 and later that year entered a guilty plea to one federal count of felony access device fraud and was deported to his native Brazil. The night of his arrest, investigators recovered an empty FedEx package bearing the address of Santos’ Florida apartment from Trelha’s rental car, leading investigators separately from two agencies, the Seattle Police Department and the Secret Service, to Santos. The Secret Service is the federal agency charged with investigating credit and bank card fraud.
At a bail hearing for Trelha in May 2017, Santos traveled to Washington State and appeared on Trelha’s behalf. But Trelha tells a different story in his declaration, saying Santos “stole” money that Trelha’s family had sent for bail, and he portrayed Santos as the brains of the operation.
Trelha wrote in his declaration that he visited an Orlando warehouse where Santos “had a lot of material — parts, printers, blank ATM and credit cards to be painted and engraved with stolen account and personal information.”
The warehouse “is a lead that should probably be run out” by investigators, Smith said, adding that if there’s a record of Santos renting storage space there, “it would add some credence to the declaration.”