Fonseca watched Kitara Ravache, who wore a purple bejeweled gown, with surprise. The newcomer had appeared from nowhere however was already on the high of the native homosexual scene, dancing alongside essentially the most established drag queens on this Rio de Janeiro suburb.
“She shone,” Fonseca recalled. “She had gentle.”
That August 2007 day was the zenith of Rep. George Santos’s transient and long-hidden previous as a drag performer in Brazil, when the longer term New York Republican congressman lived a life that was typically jarringly at odds together with his present politics.
In the USA, as an brazenly homosexual member of a celebration now concentrating on the kind of present he as soon as carried out, Santos has backed hard-line insurance policies that many within the LGBTQ neighborhood discover discriminatory. He has supported a Florida legislation that bars educators from discussing sexual orientation in early elementary schooling. He has co-sponsored a bill that separates the sexes primarily based on “immutable organic variations.” He has criticized same-sex dad and mom, calling them the “taste of the last decade.”
However in his mom’s native Niterói, Santos actively participated within the budding homosexual rights motion, in line with images and individuals who knew him, and carried out in drag extra typically than he has acknowledged. He attended the town’s first Pleasure parades, handed out pamphlets at occasions, befriended a number of the metropolis’s main activists, and climbed nightclub phases to bop and lip sync in his drag persona, Kitara Ravache, promising to at some point compete himself in Miss Brasil Homosexual.
Santos declined to be interviewed for this report. In a response to written questions, he issued a blanket denial. “None of what you might be asking is true and I might advise that you’ve got your details straight and proof of what you write,” he stated. He added, “My political opinion has all the time been constant.”
Santos, who beforehand denied performing in drag in Brazil, instructed The Washington Submit that he did so solely on that 2007 day, when he was 19, on the behest of household pal Manoel Antiqueira, one of many metropolis’s most famous drag queens. (Antiqueira disputed Santos’s account.)
Santos has hardly ever mentioned his life in Brazil, the place he spent important time throughout his formative early-adult years. However a detailed examination of that previous, together with a overview of court docket information and interviews with 25 Brazilian members of the family, former mates and acquaintances, helps carry into focus what quantities to the unpublished first chapter of the George Santos story.
Hints of the scandals to come back — allegations of serial fabrication; a congressional ethics inquiry; U.S. federal expenses of fraud, cash laundering, theft and false statements — are sprinkled all through his time in Brazil. Santos, who’s due again in New York federal court docket in September, was referred to as an enigma, masked by a number of identities and apparently tall tales.
Many who remembered him stated he was charming and humorous, however they discovered it troublesome to imagine a lot of what he stated. He typically appeared to need others to assume he was far richer, extra profitable, higher related than he was, they stated. “A mania of grandiosity,” one relative stated.
Others accused him of theft and fraud. In 2011, Rio prosecutors charged Santos with verify fraud. After his election to Congress in November tipped authorities right here to his whereabouts, he confessed in court docket to the crime, punishable by as much as 5 years in jail, to keep away from prosecution.
Family and friends disagree over how lengthy he lived right here. Some say he spent a lot of his adolescence. Others imagine it was only some months at a time over a number of years. Additional uncertainty surrounds how he handed his days in Brazil and if he ever held a job right here.
However one ingredient related all of the family and friends interviewed: shock. Few might imagine that the younger man they knew as Anthony Devolder — an extrovert with a penchant for self-aggrandizement — had managed to speak his manner into the very best echelons of American energy.
“With the picture that we have now of the USA, I’m surprised that he was capable of run for workplace with out anybody verifying something,” stated Carlos Affonso Horta de Mendonça, a cousin in Niterói. “And folks say it’s Brazil that’s a corrupt mess.”
Santos’s household, like many right here, is split between the USA and Brazil. One half lives in New York; the opposite, Niterói. After Santos’s mom, Fátima Devolder, separated from his father, Gercino dos Santos, within the Nineties, she would carry her U.S.-born kids, Tiffany and George, along with her to Brazil for lengthy stretches of time, members of the family and mates stated.
They spent a lot of that point on a dead-end avenue off a busy avenue within the historic neighborhood of Santa Rosa, the place relations lived in a big compound of 4 homes behind a brown picket gate. Life, family and friends stated, was typically a wrestle. Fátima, who died in 2016 of most cancers, labored low-paid odd jobs. She spent a lot of what she made on bingo halls and slot machines, in line with mates and relations. The household bounced from condominium to condominium and fell behind on hire.
Neighbor Allyson Silvério knew of the household’s hardships. He’d seen their energy get reduce off, he stated, after Santos’s mom illegally siphoned electrical energy off the facility grid. However Santos, he stated, insisted that his household was effectively off. In his telling, his father — a home painter in New York, in line with marketing campaign contribution information — was a high govt in the USA. (Gercino dos Santos didn’t reply to requests for remark.)
Silvério, round 10 years older than Santos, believed few of the youthful man’s tales however discovered him charming and irreverent. For 2 younger homosexual males in a socially conservative nation, it was a time of hope. The LGBTQ motion was celebrating large Pleasure parades. New rights teams and associations had been rising everywhere in the nation.
Silvério, a DJ and an early volunteer with the Niterói Range Group, stated Santos often attended its gatherings. He additionally handed out pamphlets at different LGBTQ occasions. Then he started performing as Kitara Ravache. Video shows that he attended the town’s first Pleasure parade in 2005 in drag. He additionally carried out, Silvério stated, at a beachside kiosk the place the DJ performed.
Santos denied that he and Silvério had been shut. He referred to as Silvério’s account “gibberish.”
To enhance his method, Silvério stated, Santos sought out one of many metropolis’s most well-known drag queens. The performer, Manoel Antiqueira, whose stage title is Eula Rochard, would have Santos over to his home and see him wearing drag on the homosexual membership Vollúpya. He stated Santos handled him effectively, however he discovered him untrustworthy. Santos claimed to have carried out in golf equipment he hadn’t, Antiqueira stated, and feuded with others.
“He instructed everybody he was wealthy,” he stated. “He instructed me he was wealthy.”
Santos, in flip, referred to as Antiqueira untrustworthy. “He all the time stiffed me,” Santos stated.
In 2007, Antiqueira recalled, Santos returned from the USA with tremendous material and jewels to make a gown. Antiqueira was impressed. Lots of the supplies weren’t accessible in Brazil. He put Santos in contact with the dressmaker Ariane Duarte.
Duarte stated Santos regaled her with tales of success and wealth. He stated his father was a wealthy businessman in the USA. He stated he was near an actress from the cleaning soap opera “Malhação.” He appeared to care little for the way a lot something value, she stated, paying for lavish supplies and Duarte’s companies with out criticism.
Santos denied having met Duarte. However a photograph reviewed by The Submit confirmed them collectively, alongside Antiqueira.
Duarte stated she made Santos two attire and noticed him carry out in a single on the membership Espectro. The gown was stunning, she stated: white and iridescent. Duarte watched Kitara sashay earlier than the viewers and lip sync a couple of numbers. When the efficiency was over, Duarte stated, nearly nobody clapped.
However Kitara didn’t react, Duarte stated. The performer simply stored on smiling.
Questions had been rising within the homosexual neighborhood and amongst members of the family over the place Santos acquired his cash. Nobody had seen him work.
One member of the family, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate private issues, recalled his shock when at some point he noticed Santos flush with money and decked out in new, fancy clothes. “However I knew their monetary scenario was troublesome,” the relative stated. “His mom needed to dwell rent-free with my household. We didn’t know the place his cash got here from.”
In June 2008, in line with court docket filings within the verify fraud case, a younger man walked into The Salt, a boutique in Niterói. He referred to as himself Délio. He picked out a pair of tennis footwear and different objects totaling round $1,300 and paid for them with two checks.
After Délio left the shop, vendor Bruno Simões, who granted an interview to The Submit, started to suspect that one thing was amiss. Courtroom information present he tried the three cellphone numbers written on the again of the checks, however none labored. He drove to the listed tackle, however nobody there knew Délio. The misplaced cash, the supervisor instructed him, was popping out of his paycheck.
Inside a couple of days, to Simões’s shock, one other younger man got here into the shop, carrying the footwear he’d simply offered to Délio. He stated they’d been a present however had been too tight. Simões appeared up the person, Thiago Almeida Ramalho, on the social media website Orkut. And amongst his mates, information present, he discovered Délio.
However right here, Délio glided by a distinct title: Anthony Devolder.
“Residing the happiest section of my life,” he wrote on his profile web page, a screenshot within the court docket file reveals. Santos described himself on the now-defunct website as “extravagant” and “mysterious.” “I put on clothes by well-known stylists,” he stated.
Simões corresponded with Santos over Orkut, in line with a screenshot within the court docket file. “I provides you with the cash and I promise I gained’t delay,” Santos wrote. “I do know I screwed up.”
However Santos by no means paid. Simões contacted the police in Niterói, who questioned everybody concerned over the following years.
Santos’s mom, in line with her November 2010 witness assertion, instructed police that she was a nurse to an aged man, Délio da Câmara da Costa Alemão. Santos, in line with his assertion, instructed police on the identical day that he’d “stolen” the person’s checkbook from her purse. He stated he handed “a couple of” checks, then ripped the e book up and threw it right into a sewer drain.
In June 2011, the investigating detective requested Santos’s arrest.
However by then, he was again in the USA.
Allegations of theft and a vitriolic string of messages
Across the time the police had been deepening their investigation, a pal of Santos’s mom sat all the way down to her bingo recreation and met the longer term congressman. Fátima Devolder had instructed Adriana Parizzi she would love Anthony, and, positive sufficient, she did. There was such lightness and levity to him, Parizzi stated. It was infectious.
On the time, Parizzi, 56, was feeling unmoored and alone. Each her dad and mom had been gone. She was making ready a transfer to the mountain city of Teresópolis. Her house decor enterprise was failing. However she was financially snug. Her dad and mom had left her a large inheritance — a windfall she stated she didn’t attempt to cover on the bingo halls.
“I used to be straightforward prey,” she stated.
Parizzi stated she grew to become shut with the Devolder household. Santos visited her typically in Teresópolis, for every week at a time, then two. She stated he spent a lot of 2010 at her condominium, the place they shared a platonic friendship.
Late that 12 months, across the time police say he confessed to verify fraud, Parizzi stated Santos instructed her there was nothing for them in Brazil. They need to all go to the USA. She knew it was reckless, she stated, however she acquiesced. She stated she bought tickets for her daughter Bruna, Santos and herself. After arriving in New York in February 2011, Parizzi stated, she paid for furnishings to embellish the condominium at Roosevelt Avenue and 67th Avenue.
“I used to be bankrolling the condominium and meals from my inheritance,” she stated. “And cash stored disappearing from my drawer.” Santos instructed her he wasn’t the one stealing from her.
Tiffany Devolder, Santos’s youthful sister, rejected Parizzi’s account. “Adriana, somebody whom we helped in each manner doable and conceivable, is at the moment out within the media telling lies and spreading hate,” she wrote in an e mail to The Submit. She didn’t reply to requests to elaborate.
Within the New York condominium, Bruna recalled moments of music, dancing and laughter. “He was like an uncle, or the daddy I by no means had,” she stated.
However over the following years, Adriana Parizzi stated, her relationship with him grew to become strained. She stated he as soon as threatened to “break my face.” She stated he used her Brazilian tax info to purchase jewellery on credit score and by no means paid. She stated he married a Brazilian girl in 2012 for $20,000 to allow her inexperienced card petition, an allegation earlier than the Workplace of Congressional Ethics that three different former roommates corroborated to The Submit in interviews. She stated Santos supplied to marry her to an American pal all in favour of doing enterprise in Brazil, promising she’d be compensated with an condominium alongside Central Park.
“Not true,” Santos stated. Parizzi, he stated, continues “to make up tales that aren’t true and unfounded.” The congressman, a critic of unlawful immigration, additionally denied fraudulently marrying a Brazilian girl. “This isn’t true,” he stated. His now-former spouse, who information present now lives in New Jersey, didn’t return requests for remark.
Parizzi stated her friendship with Santos lastly ruptured within the fall of 2014. She stated she’d lately petitioned the USA for asylum, and whereas the case was pending, she and Bruna stayed with Santos and his then-partner, Pedro Vilarva. The dwelling scenario was tense. Vilarva stated he was starting to doubt Santos. “The whole lot was pretend tales,” Vilarva instructed The Submit.
In the future, Parizzi and Vilarva accused Santos of stealing from them. “He pawned my cellphone,” Vilarva stated. Parizzi, who quickly moved along with her daughter right into a homeless shelter, stated her jewellery had been taken. In Fb messages with Santos she shared with The Submit, she pleaded for the jewellery’s return.
“They aren’t your issues,” she wrote on Feb. 7, 2015. “Why is that this so sophisticated?”
Over the approaching weeks, the messages present, he responded to her pleas with insults and accused her of sabotaging his relationship with Vilarva.
“An ingrate crammed with evil,” he referred to as her.
“A fats dump nobody desires,” he referred to as her.
“Crawl again into the opening you got here from, snake,” he instructed her.
Parizzi, who didn’t report the alleged theft to police, returned to Brazil along with her daughter in November 2015, penniless. She moved right into a favela in Teresópolis and now subsists on public advantages. She by no means spoke once more with Santos, whom she blames partly for her monetary losses. Many others in Santos’s Brazilian life stated they, too, had misplaced contact with him.
Allyson Silvério, his neighborhood pal, was one of many few who stated he maintained intermittent contact with Santos. When the longer term congressman returned to Brazil, Silvério stated, the 2 would speak over beers concerning the outdated instances. “He stated he labored in Manhattan,” Silvério stated. “He all the time had some wonderful job.”
In November, Silvério noticed a information article about Santos’s congressional marketing campaign and felt proud. “I’m wishing success to my pal in his endeavor!” he stated on Fb. Shortly afterward, when information of Santos’s alleged fabrications broke, he was surprised, he stated. However not stunned.
“I assumed, ‘That’s simply Anthony being Anthony.’”
In a manner, Silvério felt as if he by no means knew Santos. However in one other manner, he believed he knew precisely who Santos was.
Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report from Washington.