Treasurer in the spotlight
A sign of the far-reaching reach of the George Santos saga was visible during the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library board meeting on Monday night.
Crowded into a small recreation center room decorated with snowmen and snowflakes were a handful of reporters and concerned citizens who had driven through the winter blend outside to see if library administrator Nancy Marks would show up in public.
Marks served as campaign treasurer for Representative George Santos, among other services provided to the now infamous freshman Republican. You came under scrutiny because of several irregularities or unusual aspects of Santos’ documents.
Marks is also affiliated with several companies that have provided services to Santos and a host of other Republicans in Suffolk County and beyond in recent years, including former Representative Lee Zeldin. Patchogue’s Lisa Sevimli alluded to this business background and Suffolk’s political history in the public comments section of Monday’s meeting, noting that Marks had once worked for the former Suffolk Legis. Fred Towle, who has had several run-ins with the law over corruption and tax evasion. And the library has paid thousands of dollars a month for promotion and advertising through the South Shore Press, an outlet whose masthead lists Matthew Towle, who shares Fred’s address, under “Sales and Marketing.”
Sevimli, who says he has helped Democratic campaigns and followed Santos’ story, also mentioned a local firm called ECM Consulting and Marketing, whose state firm filings include Nancy Marks’ name. A Chamber of Commerce listing puts young Towle as a contact for that business as well.
At the meeting, library board chairman Joseph Maiorana said of the South Shore contract that “no one on this board gets any benefit from that publicity.”
Library spokesman Mark Grossman later told The Point that Marks told the library director he filed company records early on when ECM Consulting and Marketing was formed, but that he has no ownership shares and is not an officer. of society.
Marks didn’t show up for the library meeting on Monday, but she continues to be the subject of Santos-related attention from various angles. It’s becoming clear that Marks was more central to Santos’ operation than just being the person who filed his paperwork — Dr. Jeff Vacirca, a Long Island cancer doctor who was a big contributor to Santos’ campaign, said to Newsday this week that Marks introduced him to Santos. Freshman campaigners paid tens of thousands of dollars to her companies for jobs that included accounting, printing and fundraising expenses.
And messages shared with The Point show Santos says Marks was with him on a fundraising trip to Kansas in 2021.
Marks is expected to be feted on Friday at a 50th anniversary celebration of the Mastic Colonial Youth & Family Services organization, which lists her as a vice president. Executive Director Lynda Zach told The Point the group was still planning the event, but she didn’t comment when asked if Marks would show up.
— Marco Chiusano @mjchiusano
The state Department of Labor has come under fire over the billions of dollars in unemployment insurance fraud it has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. An investigation by the House of Representatives oversight committee is looming. And there remains a huge discrepancy between comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s estimate of $11 billion in fraud and the department’s estimate of just $4 billion.
But in both cases the fraud was massive. And it is even more significant when placed in context.
In response to questions from the editorial board, the Labor Department presented a breakdown of the number and dollar volume of fraudulent claims, by year, from 2016 to 2022. While department officials noted that the numbers are subject to change, based on recently discovered fraud or recovered funds, the statistics are staggering.
In 2016, the Department reports that it saw a single case of fraud impacting more than 30 claims, resulting in a loss of approximately $10,000. In 2017, just two claims resulted in about $29,000 in losses.
In 2018, claims were worth more: Three fraud cases, impacting 35 fraudulent claims, resulted in $265,530 in lost money. Three more fraud cases occurred in 2019, but they impacted 94 claims, resulting in losses of just $45,843. During those years, the state Department of Labor was able to identify how many plaintiffs — individuals or groups — filed the fraudulent claims, as well as the actual number of claims.
Then everything changed. In the first year of the pandemic, the Department says it saw 489,604 fraudulent complaints attempted, resulting in losses of a staggering $3 billion. In 2021, 1 million fraudulent claims were attempted, leading to an additional $1.1 billion in losses. An investigation is underway to determine how many plaintiffs have filed such complaints.
That $4.1 billion in fraud is a figure the Labor Department says it obtained through an analysis of both unemployment and pandemic data, and it’s as of November 2022. Of that fraud, 1.53 billions of dollars came from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, program. , while another $2 billion has emerged from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, or FPUC. Then, $82 million comes from the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation effort, or PEUC. All of these programs were established by the federal CARES Act.
According to the Labor Department, only $388 million of the total fraud came through the state’s unemployment insurance program.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
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Santos plays Santa Claus for comedians
Even before Rep. George Devolder Santos was sworn in, the revelations of his fake credentials and made-up persona stirred memories of comedian Jon Lovitz’s pre-internet “lying” persona on Saturday Night Live.
Now, thanks to the instant gratification of social media, Lovitz’s recent inevitable riffs on Santos have gone not only viral but interactive.
On Monday, at 6:37 pm, Santos tweeted in the harsh and defensive style of former President Donald Trump: “I have now been enshrined in the history of late night TV with all these copycats but so far they are all TERRIBLE. Jon Lovitz is supposed to be one of the greatest comedians of all time and that was embarrassing, for him not for me! These comedians need to step up their game.
Lovitz, as expected from a seasoned pro, tweeted a couple of throwback zingers. First, he replied at 8:36pm on Monday: “Finally!!! Are you honest about something!!!” Two hours later, as the likes, replies and retweets grew, Lovitz added: “…You’re right! I need to step up my game! My pathological lying character can’t hold a candle to you! I liked your “Jewish” joke. One of my favorites that I always make!
Santos became an instant gift for influential television satire beyond classic generational targets that included Bill Clinton, David Paterson and Anthony Weiner on the Democratic side and Sarah Palin, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon on the Republican side. Perhaps because he’s been an almost total imposter on every aspect of his true identity—and a deserving object of ridicule from both left and right—the jokes don’t require much prior knowledge to pull off. Nor do impersonations require much acting skill.
So the first canon of Santos humor quickly became voluminous. A fictional Santos character tells Stephen Colbert: “They can’t get rid of me. I’m the Speaker of the House.” Addressing scientific matters, Lovitz as Santos tells Jimmy Fallon, “It was my idea to have gravity.” On SNL, Santos’ stunt double says, “I’m a proud representative of my precinct at Long Island, NJ” And another pseudo-Santos tells Jimmy Kimmel: “I was the first openly gay Jewish Latino to walk on the moon.”
The memes, of course, replicated in real time. A caption with a photo of Santos: “I usually don’t tell the truth but when I do…. Well, we can talk about it when it actually happens. There is the image of him replacing Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in ‘Catch Me If You Can’. Another says she uses the drag name “Liza Lott.” Another has Santos superimposed as Jesus in DaVinci’s “The Last Supper.”
How soon will these and a slew of other Santos jokes get old? It depends on how much new material is still to come.