George Santos is the politician no one wants but that America probably deserves. And while that seems like a celebratory yas, slay, “embrace the villain edit” quip, it’s more just a (possibly cynical) reading of American pop culture and the post-Trump political landscape. At least that’s the tale that Mark Chiusano spins in The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos.
If you don’t know the story, George Anthony Devolder Santos is the unlikely Brazilian-American Queens, New York-native that climbed his way up into the United States Congress. And this isn’t some historical narrative: Santos is sitting in Congress now under indictment after being elected to his post in 2022. (We should note that over the weekend, Santos himself predicted that he will soon be expelled from that governing body.) Shortly after winning his election, the narrative he spun to get there unraveled: He didn’t attend the colleges he said he attended. He absolutely was not on a league-leading volleyball team like he claimed. He, in fact, had been charged with using stolen checks in Brazil. He was actually a working drag queen (though not all that great) under the name Kitara Ravache a decade ago. He did not work in finance at any Wall Street firms. And as far as anyone can find, he is not the descendent of Ukrainian Jews that survived the Holocaust. And to be frank, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In The Fabulist, Chiusano, who previously covered Santos long before he reached national attention, writes about all of these tall tales and the myth that is George Santos. In just over 200 pages, he writes not only about the lies but Santos’s journey to his life of grift, the people he took advantage of, and the political and cultural landscape that made it possible for him to get so far. Here are three parts of the book we just can’t stop thinking about.
George Santos stole from his mother’s funeral fund
Throughout the book, Chiusano writes of Santos’s close relationship with his mother, Fatima Devolder. He loved her deeply and installed her as a leading figure in the lies he conjured up: according to his tales, she was a business woman and political donor who was sitting in her corner office on 9/11, experiencing that act of terrorism first hand. In reality, she cleaned homes for a living to help pay for the small apartment they shared with a rotating roster of roommates. But no matter how strong his love for his mother was, even she wasn’t above his gift of grift — even in death.
According to the book, after Fatima’s passing Santos was the beneficiary of money from the congregation of Saint Rita’s, a church his mother frequented. Parishioners hoped to help Santos bury his mother with dignity, offering to cover the expenses for her wake. But, once the cash was turned over to him, no one knows what happened to the undisclosed sum. “Yet a source familiar with the situation says the funeral home was never paid its debt, as of the spring of 2023,” Chiusano writes. “This was not chump change; similar mortuary workin 2016 used to cost in the $6,000 range and often higher.” But in the grand scheme of his conning, it was mere chump change to Santos.
George Santos didn’t just invent his own story, he tried to reinvent his look
With the report about how he spent campaign finances having dropped, we already know that George wasn’t afraid of a bit of Botox. And as someone prone to making not-so-meticulous edits to their life story, it’s not very surprising that he was intense about appearances. But Chiusano details the extremes of that intensity. In addition to turning staffers and friends off with snide remarks about their appearance, Santos reportedly resorted to Botox, liposuction, and lap band surgery. Well maybe — he told such conflicting stories that it’s hard to tell what is truth from fiction and at one point or another he told friends and aides all of these stories.
But at least one is likely true given his personality. “Fuck,” he joked loudly according to the book, when he thought he lost on Election Night in 2022. “I guess he does have better lip filler than me.”
George Santos allegedly scammed a 16-year-old out of more than $1,000
Tales of Santos’ victims were far and wide. In one of the darkest stories, it’s claimed he scammed a homeless man out of funds raised for surgery on his dog, which was dying from a tumor. In another, he allegedly stole from a teen, someone who thought of him as an older brother, or mentor of sorts no less. The boy’s name was Lino, and he was a student who became one of Santos’s many roommates. When he was planning to go on a trip back to his home in Brazil and take gifts, Santos reportedly offered his credit card to make online shopping easier and have the gifts sent to Brazil and just pay him in cash. You know where this is going.
“$399 for a PS4, $29.99 for a FIFA soccer video game, before taxes and shipping,” Chiusano writes. “And then a space gray iPadMini ordered through Apple, for another $554. The goods didn’t show up except for the iPad — a beaten up, screen-scratched iPad that was certainly not the brand-new device Lino had ordered. He thinks Santos must have canceled the actual orders right after he made them, and pocketed the money.” This left the teen, ultimately, broke.