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Santos tied to Russian oligarch’s cousin

Republican lawmaker silent after apologizing for his ‘resume embellishment’ by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rosalind S. Helderman The Washington Post | January 17, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman from New York who lied about his biography, has deeper ties than previously known to a businessman who cultivated close links with a onetime Trump confidant and who is the cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to video footage and court documents.

Andrew Intrater and his wife each gave the maximum $5,800 to Santos' main campaign committee and tens of thousands more since 2020 to committees linked to him, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Intrater's cousin is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in the Russian energy industry.

The relationship between Santos and Intrater goes beyond campaign contributions, according to a statement made privately by Santos in 2020 and a court filing the following year in a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against a Florida-based investment firm, Harbor City Capital, where Santos worked for more than a year.

Taken together, the evidence suggests Santos may have had a business relationship with Intrater as Santos was first entering politics in 2020. It also shows, according to the SEC filing, that Intrater put hundreds of thousands of dollars into Santos' onetime employer, Harbor City, which was accused by regulators of running a Ponzi scheme. Neither Santos nor Intrater responded to requests for comment. Attorneys who have represented Intrater also did not respond.

The congressman, whose election from Long Island last year helped the GOP secure its narrow House majority, has apologized for what he called "resume embellishment" while rebuffing calls for his resignation. He is under scrutiny by prosecutors in New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Ties between Santos, 34, and Intrater, 60, reflect the ways Santos found personal and political support on his path to public office.

While Intrater is a U.S. citizen, his company, the investment firm Columbus Nova, has historically had extensive ties to the business interests of his Russian cousin. As recently as 2018, when Vekselberg was sanctioned by the Treasury Department, his conglomerate was Columbus Nova's largest client, the company confirmed to The Post that year.

Intrater's interactions in 2016 and 2017 with Michael Cohen, who at the time was working as a lawyer for Donald Trump, were probed during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between Trump and the Kremlin.

Intrater's company paid the lawyer and self-described Trump fixer to identify deals for his business, and court records show they exchanged hundreds of texts and phone calls. Neither Intrater nor Vekselberg was accused of wrongdoing in Mueller's investigation.

Santos and Intrater did not respond to text messages seeking comment.

The congressman has falsified substantial aspects of his work experience. And, in the Harbor City Zoom meetings reviewed by The Post, he recounted dealings with other prominent investors or moneyed organizations that those entities denied took place.

But Harbor City was able to land a $625,000 deposit from a company registered in Mississippi that identifies Intrater as its lone officer, according to an exhibit included in the SEC's complaint against Harbor City. The alleged deposit, which is undated, is included in a chart that lists several entities that the SEC says made payments to Harbor City.

The Mississippi company, FEA Innovations, is registered to Intrater, according to secretary of state records. Registration documents include no other officers or directors and identify Intrater's address as the same one used by Columbus Nova on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Columbus Nova is now known as Sparrow Capital.

In the SEC action, initiated in April 2021, regulators accused Harbor City and its founder of running a "classic Ponzi scheme" -- promising investors reliable profit and instead bilking them out of millions.

The SEC complaint did not name Santos, who has denied knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing, although he had been told by a prospective investor that the firm was using a fraudulent bank document, as The Post previously reported.

Information for this article was contributed by Devlin Barrett, Emma Brown and Jonathan O'Connell of The Washington Post.

Print Headline: Santos tied to Russian oligarch’s cousin

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