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US lawmaker George Santos pleads not guilty to federal charges

Washington : US Congressman George Santos has pleaded not guilty to 13 criminal charges.

The not-guilty plea on Wednesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, came hours after the unsealing of the indictment against Santos.

Santos, the US representative for New York’s 3rd congressional district, has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the US House of Representatives.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Santos, 34, said he will not resign from Congress and he plans on running for reelection.

The first-term Republican lawmaker called the indictment “a witch hunt”, saying that he’s going to “fight to defend myself.”

Breon Peace, US attorney for the eastern district of New York, stated in a statement that the “indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations”.

“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” Peace said.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

If convicted of the charges, Santos faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the top counts.

Santos admitted to fabricating several aspects of his work history and education, following his election in the 2022 midterm elections of the US.

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