Promised green cards, catfishing, threats: How George Santos’ ex-boyfriends say they were left feeling trapped, manipulated
Written by ABC AUDIO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on February 1, 2023
(WASHINGTON) — As Rep. George Santos continues to face mounting scrutiny over fabricating large swaths of his biography, multiple men have described to ABC News past relationships with the New York congressman — some allegedly occurring when they were still teenagers — that they said turned toxic due to a flood of lies that Santos told to try to manipulate and trap them.
The new allegations come as Santos on Tuesday informed his Republican colleagues at a closed-door conference meeting that he would be recusing himself from committee assignments.
Several of the men ABC News spoke with said that they met Santos as young men, when Santos, who later ran for Congress as an openly gay Republican, was several years older than they were.
Leonardo Bris said he was 19 years old when he met Santos at a bar in Manhattan in 2013, when Bris was in town from Brazil. Bris told ABC News in an interview that he knew the now-embattled congressman as Anthony Zabrovski, one of a handful of aliases that Santos has reportedly used over the years.
‘He promised me the world’
Bris said that over the next few weeks, he began a romantic relationship with Santos, who was 25 at the time. Bris recalled Santos telling him tales of dating supermodels and how they still begged him to become a model himself.
But Bris said he would later find out those claims were lies, and the relationship quickly turned “toxic” — filled with what Bris said were “manipulative” things that Santos told him to keep him from leaving.
“He promised the world,” Bris said of Santos, who Bris said at one point promised to marry him in order to help him secure U.S. citizenship.
“He promised me, ‘Don’t worry,’ and that he will get me a green card if I marry him and stay under his ‘wings,'” Bris recalled.
At the time, Bris said, he felt like Santos was trying to trap him.
“If you get a green card from him, you will be in his hands forever,” Bris recalled thinking. “If you divorce, you had the leave the country.”
When he first met Santos, Bris said it was a vulnerable time in his life; he was young and it was his first year in the United States on a tourist visa.
“It was an illusion … now I realize he just wanted to get people under his hand,” Bris said. Eventually, after Santos’ “lies” piled up, Bris said he decided to move back to Brazil.
“Thank God I didn’t believe him [or] stayed longer and married him,” he said.
Santos did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
‘The way he is’
Since getting elected in November to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, Santos has been under fire for misrepresenting portions of his biography, including his work history, education, religion and charity work, as well as falsely claiming his grandmother was a Holocaust victim and that his mother died in the 9/11 terror attack.
Santos has insisted he has committed no crime and has vowed to serve out his term for his constituents, suggesting it’s up to them to reelect him or vote him out of office in two years’ time. He was given assignments on the congressional committees for small business and for science, space and technology, before telling GOP colleagues that he would recuse himself from those appointments.
Santos, who ran as an openly gay candidate, was married in 2012 to a woman named Uadla Vieira in Manhattan. She filed for divorce in June 2019 and the marriage was dissolved later that fall. Divorce records are sealed in New York, and ABC News has been unable to reach her.
Pedro Vilarva, who told ABC News he met Santos in 2014 on the dating app Tinder, said he shared an apartment with Santos’ wife without knowing the two were married at the time. Santos encouraged Vilarva to move into the apartment with his then-wife, according to Vilarva, who said Santos would introduce her as his “friend.”
Vilarva said that he and Santos started dating while Vilarva was still in high school. “He was 26 and I was 18,” Vilarva said.
At the start of the relationship, Santos and Vilarva would spend the weekends together because Vilarva had his high school classes on weekdays, Vilarva said. The pair dated for about a year until Vilarva said the lies started to pile up.
Vilarva said he didn’t find out about Santos’ marriage until months into their relationship. At that point, Vilarva said, Santos proposed to him multiple times and promised him he would get a divorce. But the divorce would not come until years later, after the two had gone their separate ways.
Vilarva said the relationship ended after he started searching online for information on the multiple names he noticed Santos had used over the course of their relationship.
“The way that he is, is that he lies and then he tries to cover up that lie with another lie,” Vilarva told ABC News.
‘You’re partners with Santos?’
Kevin Guzman, who says he met Santos over ten years ago, told ABC News that he was pursued romantically by Santos and that he ultimately declined Santos’ advances.
But that didn’t stop Santos from telling people they were dating, Guzman said.
Guzman remembers mutual friends asking him, “Oh, you’re partners with Santos?” which shocked Guzman since they hadn’t been romantically involved.
“He wanted me to be in a relationship with him, which I didn’t want,” Guzman told ABC News. “Then he made everybody think that I was with him.”
A mutual friend, Yasser Rabello, corroborated Guzman ‘s account. Rabello, a former roommate of Santos, told ABC News that he remembered Santos lying about being in a relationship with Guzman.
“He was with me all the time then,” Guzman said. “I didn’t realize how much he had sold it.”
Guzman says his feeling of violation increased even more what he discovered later that Santos had been using his photo on dating apps.
“He hurt me a lot mentally,” Guzman said. “If I hear his name, if I see a picture … I was so scared of him.”
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