NEW YORK, NY (AP) - A man who briefly served as an aide for U.S. Rep. George Santos claims he was hired after sending a number of payments to the Republican's deputy.
Derek Myers, 31 told the staff of House's Ethics Subcommittee in an interview on Wednesday that he had sent at least seven payments of $150 to Vish Burra, Santos director of operations in late January.
Myers provided The Associated Press with details of the payments including text messages and receipts. His account of Burra's help in getting him hired was not previously reported, and it raises concerns about possible ethical violations at Santos.
Myers claimed he sent the money uninvited because he thought Burra was a right-wing operative who wasn't being paid by the House and couldn't buy food. He said that he also thought the payments would help him find a job.
Myers told AP that Burra was a very powerful person. I wanted him to be my advocate.
Burra declined to comment. He was a reliable presence next to Santos, who helped his boss get away from the media after his arraignment at federal court in late November.
House investigators asked Myers questions about the payments that were documented by receipts and texts, as part a probe into sexual harassment claims Myers had made at work after she was dismissed in February.
Myers, an ex-journalist, was offered a position as a legislative assistant late in January. However, she lasted for less than one week. Santos informed Myers that he was worried by the results of the background check which revealed Myers had been accused of wiretapping after publishing an audio recording of a court trial in Ohio.
In a letter to the House Committee on Ethics in February, Myers claimed he had been fired after refusing Santos' advances. He accused the congressman running his hand down his inner leg, and then touching his groin, while they were alone at the office.
Santos denied the allegations, calling them 'comical'.
Santos is facing fraud and money laundering charges in federal court and has admitted fabricating a large part of his biography. The House Ethics Committee is currently investigating Santos's improper conduct.
Last month, Republicans referred the issue to the ethics committee, instead of voting to expel Santos. The committee hasn't revealed who it is interviewing, or when a possible decision could be made.
Members of the committee spent more than two hours on Wednesday questioning Myers regarding his sexual harassment claims, his relationship with Burra and if he had witnessed any illegal conduct during his brief tenure in office.
He said he found Burra on the internet, and then pushed for a position at Santos’s office in an effort to help out the scandal-scarred rep.
Myers provided additional documentation including email and text messages between staffers, and receipts that showed his Venmo payment to Burra.
Myers stated that Burra never asked him for money but did once request that he "send more Pizza", which he understood to be a reference the pizza emoji used in Venmo's subject line.
The House investigators questioned Myers regarding a text message exchange he had on Jan. 29 with Burra, days after he was offered the position. Myers asked Burra in that text exchange, 'Did payroll arrive yet?'
Burra responded, "You didn't need to do that, man." Later, Burra added, "I'm going to pay you back, for sure."
Myers admitted during his interview with House investigators that, at least once, he secretly recorded a conversation with Santos. He then shared the recording with a journalist. He said that he went to the FBI when he was still working for Santos with the intent of working as a confidential law enforcement informant.
He claimed that he spoke out after being forced to quit his job.