Republicans have had a hard time defending New York representative George Santos, who has lied about basically every aspect of his life and racked up a whole lot of legal exposure along the way. But a report from the local-news network Patch could make that defense even more difficult: Santos allegedly ripped off a disabled veteran who was trying to raise money for his dying service dog. Think of it as a “how not to” guide for making yourself look like an ethical and reliable community politician.
In May 2016, according to Patch, Rich Osthoff was living in a tent on the side of the road in Howell, New Jersey, when his service dog, Sapphire, developed a life-threatening stomach tumor that would require a $3,000 surgery. A veterinary technician told Osthoff that a pet charity could help him — Friends of Pets United, run by Anthony Devolder, a pseudonym Santos was using at the time. Friends of Pets United set up a GoFundMe and successfully raised the money, but when Osthoff tried to schedule a procedure at his veterinarian in New Jersey with the funds, Santos began to act strangely. He told Osthoff he could take his pit mix to a vet in Queens where he had “credit” but was told the tumor was inoperable, even though the vet in New Jersey said the tumor was removable.
By November 2016, Osthoff had had enough. “I’m starting to feel like I was mined for my family and friends donations,” he texted Santos. In a final phone call, Santos told Osthoff that because he “didn’t do things my way,” he rerouted the funds for “other dogs.” In a statement to Semafor, Santos has denied the “fake” story. But previous reporting from the New York Times found that Santos’s animal charity was bogus and ripped off other groups as well.
Santos then sent Osthoff a string of unhinged texts, saying that his organization’s “credibility” brought in the donations and that he operates with the “highest standards of integrity.” He also noted that he paid for “gas, tolls, lunch. All of that!” Without the surgery, Sapphire died on January 15, 2017. Out of work, Osthoff could not afford euthanasia and cremation. “I had to panhandle,” he told Patch. “It was one of the most degrading things I ever had to do.”
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