Federal Investigators Are Reportedly Probing George Santos' Alleged Dog Fundraising Scheme
Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM via Getty George Santos
Federal investigators are reportedly looking into claims that Republican Rep. George Santos once scammed a Navy veteran out of $3,000 meant for his ailing service dog, CNN and Politico report.
Navy vet Richard Osthoff told the outlets he was recently interviewed by federal agents, just weeks after publicly claiming Santos had helped him raise money for his dog, Sapphire, and then disappeared once funds reached $3,000.
"I'm glad to get the ball rolling with the big-wigs," Osthoff told Politico in an interview this week. "I was worried that what happened to me was too long ago to be prosecuted."
A spokesperson for Santos has not responded to PEOPLE's request for comment.
RELATED: Veteran Alleges George Santos Scammed Him Out of $3K Meant for Dog's Cancer Treatment — Santos Denies It
In an interview with Patch, Osthoff said he was connected with Santos back in 2016. At the time, Santos was going by the name Anthony Devolder and running a purported charity called Friends of Pets United. Osthoff's service dog, Sapphire, was diagnosed with a stomach tumor, so Osthoff reached out to Santos for help.
According to Osthoff, Santos set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for Sapphire, but once the funds reached $3,000, he seemingly disappeared.
"To everyone who helped me and Sapphire raise the money for her surgery, I'm sorry to say that we were scammed by Anthony Devolder and Friends of Pets United FOPU," a 2016 Facebook post by Osthoff reads.
RELATED: Rep. George Santos Appears to Have Ripped Off His Former Boss's Resume in Crafting His Backstory
Sapphire's tumor grew and she had to be euthanized, with Osthoff resorting to panhandling to pay for her euthanasia and cremation, he told Patch. "It was one of the most degrading things I ever had to do," he said.
Santos has denied that he scammed Osthoff, though a campaign bio claimed the lawmaker ran Friends of Pet United and used it to save 2,500 dogs and cats between 2013 and 2018. While The New York Times found that the organization at one point had a Facebook page and once hosted a 2017 fundraiser, the Internal Revenue Service has no record of a registered charity going by that name.
Osthoff told Politico that he was contacted by agents from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York, and gave them copies of text messages between he and Santos.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer.
The alleged pet fundraising scam is just one of Santos' many controversies. Since being elected in November, the Republican congressman from New York has been caught in a web of lies and admitted to "embellishing" parts of his career, family history and personal life.
He is currently under investigation by both the Nassau County District Attorney's Office and federal investigators, with other probes also reportedly ongoing.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that the DOJ asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on taking any action against Santos — a signal that the DOJ itself may be investigating the Republican's campaign finances, which have raised numerous questions.
Earlier this week, Santos told colleagues he would temporarily resign from his assignments on the Small Business and Science Committees while the investigations play out.