Scandal-plagued congressman George Santos (R-NY) has chalked up another accusation of criminal behavior after he allegedly stole $3,000 from a disabled and homeless veteran in 2016 meant to go towards the medical care of his service dog, according to recent reports.
ViewRichard Osthoff, 47, told the New York local media outlet Patch that he was referred to Santos by a veterinary technician helping Osthoff’s dog Sapphire after the mental health companion was diagnosed with a potentially fatal stomach tumor.
“I know a guy who runs a pet charity who can help you,” the tech told the United States Navy veteran.
At the time, the former serviceman was living in a tent outside of Howell, New Jersey.
Santos – going by the name Anthony Devolder – was running a pet charity called Friends of Pets United, according to the vet tech.
But according to a fellow veteran and retired police Sergeant Michael Boll, the GoFundMe set up by Santos to raise money for Sapphire’s surgery disappeared after the three grand had been raised – with none of the money going to Osthoff or his service dog’s medical care.
“He stopped answering my texts and calls,” Mr. Osthoff said.
On the GoFundMe page, Santos set up for Osthoff, he wrote “Dear all, When a veteran reaches out to ask for help, how can you say no […].”
Despite bragging on social media about reaching the intended goal, Rep. Santos became unavailable when Osthoff and Boll reached out to him regarding the porceeds.
According to the disabled veteran, Santos became belligerent when asked about Sapphire’s surgery – going so far as to blame Osthoff for his not receiving the money.
“Remember it is our credibility that got GoFundMe […] to contribute,” the not-yet-congressman replied. “Sapphire is not a candidate for this surgery the funds are moved to the next animal in need and we will make sure we use of resources [sic] to keep her comfortable.”
Screenshot courtesy of Patch.
Osthoff’s beloved service animal passed away in 2017.
A retired Marine Corps vet, Boll founded the NJ Veterans Network in 2017. Familiar with both the veterinary technician and Osthoff through his non-profit work, the retired police sergeant spread the word about the fundraiser set up in Sapphire’s name.
But Santos was elusive.
“He was totally uncooperative on the phone,” Boll said. “I contacted [Santos] and told him ‘You’re messing with a veteran.'”
When Santos was confronted with refunding the money, Boll was told the funds raised would be used to help other animals instead.
According to The New York Times, Friends of Pets United isn’t a registered non-profit organization. The mainstream media outlet exposed Santos’ lies in a December 2022 article, which detailed contradictions in the then-Representative-Elect’s claims of rescuing animals.
Service animals are a lifesaver for veterans living with mental health issues and service-related PTSD.
What Congressman George Santos did was not only a slap in the face to those who have served this country, but all of our servicemen and women struggling.
“I really felt bad for Rich [in 2016],” Boll told Patch. “He has PTSD, and this dog is his lifeline. When I first heard about it, I thought, this is going to kill him.”
Thankfully it didn’t, and Mr. Osthoff got another service animal shortly after the passing of Sapphire.
Original reporting by Jacqueline Sweet at Patch.
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