Congressman-elect George Santos, a New York Republican, has admitted to lying about his work experience and education, falsely claiming a degree from Baruch College and jobs at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. After the New York Times questions raised about Santos’ connections to these institutions, Santos admitted Monday that he «beautified my resume.»

Many more lies have been unearthed since then, from Santos’s dubious claim that his mother died on 9/11 to claim that he wasa proud jewish american” despite having been raised as a practicing Catholic.

If Santos was as flexible about disclosing his finances on campaign forms as he has been in public about his personal history, the likely result will be a federal indictment.

It’s not surprising to see that federal prosecutors, state prosecutors and the New York attorney general are investigating Santos’ deception, and much of the public is likely to want to see Santos punished for his duplicity. However, despite the effrontery and provable nature of Santos’s lies, no one should think that an indictment is warranted. Lying to the public, as Santos has done, may be despicable and indefensible, but it is not a crime.

What prosecutors consider a crime has little to do with the biography he posted on his campaign website and the controversial tweets and interviews he gave. Instead, it will likely depend on the content of the campaign-related and personal financial documents he, like all candidates for federal office, must produce.

Without a doubt, if Santos is indicted, all his lies will matter. The veracity of the defendant can become relevant at various stages of a criminal case. Santos’ lies could be a gold mine to establish intention Y accusing him in cross-examination at trial and, if convicted, improving your punishment at sentencing. Even before Santos has been indicted, his falsehoods have apparently already led two prosecutors’ offices and the New York legal director to review his finances. If Santos was as flexible about disclosing his finances on campaign forms as he has been in public about his personal history, the likely result will be a federal indictment.

Due to a federal investigation, the Casa de Santos financial disclosure statements and quarterly Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports they are the most likely to lead prosecutors to consider charging you. The former is an annual form that documents a candidate’s personal finances, while the latter details a campaign’s income and expenses. Lying about the circumstances of his mother’s death may seem more scandalous, but misrepresentations or omissions in these documents could land him in jail.

Financial disclosure statements are required by federal law. statutewhich, in an arrangement, outlines the potential penalties for false statements, including up to one year in prison. In particular, Saints revealed a $55,000 salary in 2020 during a previous run for Congress, but he did not list any assets. Then, in cycle 2022, he reported a salary of $750,000, an apartment in Rio de Janeiro worth up to $1 million, and millions more in dividends and bank accounts.

That disparity will not go unnoticed by prosecutors. It would be surprising if grand jury subpoenas have not yet been issued to determine the sources of Santos’s alleged wealth (or lies about it). And it’s possible that someone who works with the FBI has already gone through that Brazilian apartment.

Santos’ FEC presentations could also prove detrimental. Federal law requires that all campaign contributions and expenses be reported. over $200, a requirement designed, in part, to prevent illegal contributions, that is, contributions from illegal sources or contributions that exceed campaign finance limits. violating that statute could result in an even harsher sentence of five years in prison.

federal prosecutors recently relied on that law to charge a former California congressman with crimes related to the falsification of its FEC files, in part to hide illegal donations. In the case of Santos, they have already seriously questioned high about the origin of a personal loan of $700,000 from Santos for his campaign.

If a case needs to be brought against Santos, it will most likely be brought by the Justice Department rather than by a state attorney. Santos was a federal candidate who filled out federal forms that expose him to federal penalties. And there are no obvious state violations or other punishments for Santos unless state investigators uncover new facts.

State or federal, no prosecution is guaranteed, but the fact that a little-known congressman-elect has quickly garnered national attention and scrutiny from so many legal arms of the government should deter other candidates from lying to the public. If warranted, a federal conviction would send an even stronger message.