Before he allegedly ripped off a megadonor, first-time Republican candidates say Redstone Strategies was part of a scam George Santos pulled on their campaigns.
Before Rep. George Santos allegedly bilked a deep-pocketed donor out of $25,000, the now-congressman was pulling a similar scam on fellow Republican candidates, GOP sources tell The Daily Beast.
The 13-count federal indictment unsealed last week charged the New York lawmaker with—among other things—having an associate lie to a contributor in fall 2022 that a firm Santos co-owned was really a nonprofit that could bankroll advertisements for his congressional candidacy.
The prosecutors describe this incident as part of an ongoing scheme through which Santos deceived multiple backers into donating money to this entity by presenting it as an independent committee supporting his bid for the House. In truth, the feds say, much of the money wound up in Santos’ personal accounts.
But, according to multiple GOP sources who spoke with The Daily Beast, the first victims of the ploy were not donors but his fellow Republican candidates.
The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, as well as The Daily Beast’s own research, have all identified ‘Company #1’ in the indictment with Redstone Strategies—a limited liability company formed in Florida in November 2021, and which listed Santos’ Devolder Organization and his old co-worker Jayson Benoit as its managers. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Santos both denied that Redstone Strategies was the company in the case, and that he ever served as its manager, insisting that Benoit had included his company in the original business filings in error.
But there does not appear to be another company formed in Florida that matches the indictment’s description, and Santos also insisted he had no idea what Company #1 could be. Further, a source supplied The Daily Beast with communications that Benoit sent out on behalf of Redstone Strategies. Benoit did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Campaign finance records show that Redstone raked in cash from multiple sources during the 2022 cycle, including from Rise NY PAC, a political action committee run by the now-congressman’s sister. It also served as a vendor to failed House candidate Robert Cornicelli, and to several other GOP insurgents in New York, most of whom did not respond to requests for comment on the record.
Those who did, however, reported a pattern of deceptive behavior on the part of Santos and poor or negligible services from Redstone.
“George didn’t only lie to his voters, but also to fellow candidates around him for his own alleged financial gain,” Stefano Forte, a Republican who unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat in Queens last fall, wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Forte said that Santos approached him and urged him to hire Redstone, claiming the company had fundraised huge sums of money for him and for Tina Forte, who was challenging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the two Fortes are not related). He said Benoit repeated the second claim when the two made contact.
Records show that Stefano Forte cut off Redstone in June 2022—after paying the company more than $14,000.
“They did do some fundraising for me, but ultimately I was unhappy with their work and decided to part ways with them,” Forte continued, adding that he later learned of Santos’ stake in the company. “I immediately had words with George because I was very upset that he kept that information from me.”
In a phone conversation with The Daily Beast, Santos admitted he had referred other candidates to Redstone, but denied he benefited financially from any of the transactions. He also dismissed Forte’s complaints, accusing his fellow GOPer of plotting to run against him.
“Obviously he’s trying to build chips against me,” Santos said.
Forte fired back in a text message sent to The Daily Beast, alluding to the congressman’s record of scandals, alter egos, and numerous mistruths.
“Who do you believe? Me or Anthony Devolder (a.k.a. George Santos a.k.a. world-famous Brazilian drag queen Kitara Ravache)—proud Jew and former Baruch volleyball star, Goldman Sachs executive, producer of ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,’ Hannah Montana guest star, and eccentric millionaire?” Forte wrote, calling for the congressman to resign his seat. “I’m sure he’s nervous that I’ll run against him. But I’d be surprised if he even has the opportunity to run again once the justice system takes its course.”
In fact Redstone Strategies worked for neither Santos’ election effort nor for Tina Forte. But Tina Forte’s campaign did pay another company Santos and Benoit co-founded: Red Strategies USA, which took in upwards of $110,000 from the failed House bid.
Tina Forte declined to answer questions for this story, directing The Daily Beast to her former campaign manager, who also declined a request for comment. But one of her former staffers told a very similar story to Stefano Forte.
Marketing consultant and activist Jen Remauro told The Daily Beast that Santos had urged the fellow congressional contender to hire Red Strategies USA, while concealing his financial interest in it. In fact, she said Santos engineered Tina Forte’s entire challenge to the famous democratic socialist lawmaker for the apparent purpose of profiting from it.
Remauro recalled a conversation she had with Tina Forte shortly before the candidate filed to run in June 2021, in which Forte described a phone call she said she had received from Santos.
“‘He told me he was in Mar-a-Lago with a bunch of other politicians and my name was running around, and they all were talking about how I ought to run for Congress against AOC,” Remauro said Forte told her. “He said ‘They all use this company Red Strategies and I don’t really know them, but I have their card.’”
Remauro said Santos then arranged a Google Meet call between Forte, herself, Benoit, and Red Strategies’ other co-founders—most of them,like Benoit, veterans of the alleged Ponzi scheme where Santos previously worked, but also including Santos’ campaign treasurer Nancy Marks. Remauro asserted that Santos pretended to be merely a facilitator of the meeting, and even introduced himself to his business partners as if meeting them for the first time.
Marks, who did not respond to requests for comment, ultimately would work for both Fortes, and for every other Redstone client. Tina Forte’s campaign ultimately signed a contract with Red Strategies that allowed the company to take 80 percent of all fundraising proceeds for the first four months, according to a copy The Daily Beast viewed. But Remauro alleged the firm turned out low-quality materials and did little to actually build campaign infrastructure, while raking in huge sums off credit card contributions made through Tina Forte’s donations page.
Remauro said Santos was in constant contact with Tina Forte’s campaign team, usually by text, often commiserating about Red Strategies’ poor service and volunteering himself as an interlocutor between the campaign and the firm.
“He was playing the role of not knowing these people and being on our side. Because they weren’t doing their jobs,” Remauro said. “He was like the middle man between Red Strategies and us.”
Santos called Remauro’s version of events “absurd” and questioned her motives and credibility. But Remauro shared screen grabs of multiple documents—including the invite to the original Red Strategies Google Meet—as well as of text exchanges between herself and Santos, in which she confronted him with the discovery that he was one of Red Strategies’ co-founders. In the text threads, Santos lied to Remauro and denied it, insisting he had only bought into the firm in August 2021.
Moreover, Remauro’s story is consistent with intel The Daily Beast previously received from Santos-linked sources, who alleged the now-congressman had gotten Tina Forte to run for the House to make money off her donors.
Other evidence The Daily Beast obtained from a GOP source who asked to remain anonymous indicates Redstone Strategies was simply a continuation of the Red Strategies scheme. The insider, a consultant who wished to protect their relationships in the party, shared with The Daily Beast a proposed contract that Benoit sent in January 2022 to Pura de Jesus Coniglio, who sought to run against Tina Forte in the GOP primary. The contract, which bears the Redstone logo, is highly similar to the deal Red Strategies had signed with Tina Forte. Forte made her last payment to Red Strategies on December 31 of the prior year.
Coniglio’s team, which also employed Marks as its treasurer, rejected the arrangement and ultimately failed to get their candidate on the ballot. Coniglio did not respond to a request for comment.
Source: Republicans Say George Santos Lied and Scammed Them Through His Company Redstone Strategies (thedailybeast.com)