The calls would come in to Dish Network, a satellite television provider, about any number of issues.
Perhaps a customer had a billing problem, or maybe a dish wasn’t working. Sometimes, the callers had questions about programming, especially about the international, foreign-language channels popular with immigrants eager to maintain ties to the homeland.
If the call was in Portuguese, it might get routed to a center in College Point, Queens. And for a period in 2011 and 2012, according to the company, the call might have been answered by a charming young customer service agent named George Santos, a Queens-born son of Brazilian immigrants who, more than a decade later, would win a crucial election to Congress.
But Mr. Santos has a told different story on the campaign trail: that around the same time that Dish Network records show he was working there, he was rising through the ranks at Citigroup in the first step of an extensive and lucrative Wall Street career that also included a stint at Goldman Sachs.
Neither Citigroup nor Goldman Sachs could locate any record of Mr. Santos’s employment, The New York Times reported on Monday. The Times’s findings — which include a criminal charge in Brazil and potential omissions or misrepresentations in his financial disclosure — raise questions about the life and dealings of the new Republican congressman.
Mr. Santos has declined to directly address The Times’s reporting or provide a detailed résumé that could help verify his past jobs, calling the effort an attempt to “smear his good name.”
On Thursday, with many Democrats and even some Republicans calling for answers, Mr. Santos said on Twitter, “I have my story to tell and it will be told next week.” He promised his constituents he would “address your questions.” (His lawyer later declined to answer a list of questions from The Times.)
But interviews with former friends and co-workers, and additional records reviewed by The Times, offer a fuller picture of Mr. Santos’s life, with new details that were not disclosed on his campaign biography.
Former friends recalled an ambitious young man with fine taste, whose lavish descriptions of real estate owned in Brazil, Nantucket and New York seemed vastly disconnected from the rented apartments in Queens he lived in, including one he shared with his sister and his mother, who was employed as a domestic worker.
John Rijo, who said he had worked at the Dish Network center in College Point for roughly a decade, said that Mr. Santos had taken calls in English and Portuguese. Mr. Santos worked there from October 2011 to July 2012, doing “customer care work,” according to the company.
The agents’ hourly pay, Mr. Rijo said, was at most, he thought, $15 an hour, with an extra dollar or two for foreign language expertise.
At the same time, friends recall, Mr. Santos was living modestly in Queens, occasionally taking on extra roommates to make rent. Gregory Morey-Parker was one of those roommates, briefly. From early on, he said, there were incongruities between the way that Mr. Santos talked about himself and the life he led. Mr. Santos bragged about family wealth and business success — even a home on Nantucket — which Mr. Morey-Parker said had seemed at odds with the ordinary life the family led.
“You’re sitting here bragging about all this money you’re making,” Mr. Morey-Parker said. “Then why is your mother a housekeeper?”
Peter Hamilton met Mr. Santos near the start of 2014, he said. He recalled how Mr. Santos, who claimed to be an N.Y.U. graduate, had not recognized the name of the business school he said he had attended. Nonetheless, Mr. Hamilton found him charismatic and intelligent. “He seems to know what to say, and how to say it to people,” Mr. Hamilton recalled in an interview.
He did not hesitate when Mr. Santos said that he needed to borrow several thousand dollars to move in with his boyfriend, and lent him the money in September 2014, court documents show. Not long afterward, Mr. Hamilton said, Mr. Santos stopped responding to his texts and calls.
Mr. Hamilton filed a case in small claims court in Queens to seek repayment in 2015. In October of that year, Mr. Santos responded, saying that the money had been repaid and that it was not a loan but a favor. A judge agreed with Mr. Hamilton, however, and issued a judgment of $5,000 plus interest.
In an interview, Mr. Hamilton said that while he would love to be repaid, he was past worrying over old debts. “I have regrets that I didn’t come forward before the actual election,” he said, adding later, “At this point, it’s like, he’s defrauding the public.”
Court records show that Mr. Santos’s financial struggles extended beyond debts to friends. The same year that he was in court with Mr. Hamilton, a landlord in Queens filed an eviction case against him, saying he owed her $2,250 in rent.
Less than two years later, he faced another eviction lawsuit in a different apartment, when a landlord in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Queens said Mr. Santos owed months of rent and a fee for a bounced check. He was ultimately ordered to pay more than $12,000.
The next year, in December 2018, Discover Bank won a default judgment against Mr. Santos for $1,927.45 in credit card debt, court records show. His last payment had been made in February of that year, for just $34.
In 2019, as Mr. Santos was preparing to start his first campaign for Congress, court records show that he was back in court in Queens for another matter: a divorce case.
City clerk records obtained by the nonprofit group Reclaim the Records show that Mr. Santos was married in 2012 in Manhattan. His former wife filed for divorce in June 2019, which Mr. Santos did not contest.
The circumstances of their marriage are unclear: Divorce cases are sealed, and attempts to reach Mr. Santos’s ex-wife in New Jersey were unsuccessful. But the divorce was concluded that fall, court records show. In November, Mr. Santos declared his candidacy in New York’s Third Congressional District in northeast Queens and northern Long Island.
Early during that first campaign, Mr. Santos listed his address as an apartment in the Elmhurst section of Queens. That residence, which was outside the district he was running to represent, appeared on an official candidate list compiled by New York City’s Board of Elections in 2020 and on federal campaign finance documents.
Mr. Santos later moved to a rowhouse in the Whitestone neighborhood where he is currently registered to vote, but no longer lives.
The house’s owner, Nancy Pothos, said that Mr. Santos and his husband had moved there in July 2020. The couple rented the two-bedroom, two-floor apartment for $2,600 a month, she said, while Ms. Pothos lived below.
The apartment drew attention after Mr. Santos claimed it had been vandalized in January 2021, after he and his husband returned from a New Year’s Eve gala in Florida at former President Donald J. Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago. Instagram photos that Mr. Santos posted of himself at the event were linked to in a Times article about guests’ forgoing masks despite coronavirus-related restrictions.
Mr. Santos asserted on Twitter that stones and eggs had been thrown at his house and that he had spent four and a half hours filing reports with the police and insurance companies.
Ms. Pothos, 72, said that she did not recall any such incident. The New York Police Department, when asked if it had reports of violence, vandalism or disputes at the Whitestone address for early that January, said it had a report of an incident there in October 2021. It did not respond when asked to clarify if that was the only reported incident at the address that year.
Mr. Santos told Newsday in March 2022 that he had left the Whitestone home, purportedly because of the vandalism, though he refused to share a new address. But Ms. Pothos said that Mr. Santos had not moved out until August and asserted that she had to spend $17,000 to repair severe damage left behind.
Where Mr. Santos currently lives remains unclear, in part because he has offered conflicting accounts. In October, he suggested on Twitter that he still lived in Ms. Pothos’s apartment, citing a robbery “two blocks away from my home in Whitestone.”
Mr. Santos had also told Newsday that he would eventually move to Oyster Bay, N.Y. Instead, he appears to have settled in a house in Huntington, a town just outside his district’s boundaries. (Members of Congress are only required to live in the state they represent, not the district.)
On Wednesday, three neighbors said that they had seen Mr. Santos or his husband at the house in Huntington, in a hilly neighborhood full of attractive, middle-class houses, some of which have been turned into rentals. One man who lived across the street said that Mr. Santos had moved in some time in August.
Neither Mr. Santos nor his husband is listed on property records for the home, and the house’s owner did not respond to a phone call or social media messages seeking more information.
The post George Santos’s Early Life: Odd Jobs, Bad Debts and Lawsuits appeared first on New York Times.