The disabled Navy veteran who claims embattled Rep. George Santos ripped him off for $3,000 meant for the vet’s sick service dog asked the Long Island Republican Thursday if he has a “soul.”
“Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul?” Richard Osthoff told “CNN This Morning”. “He probably would lie about that. I mean, I don’t want you to ever hurt anybody like you hurt me again, George. And nobody else should ever have to go through that. I almost killed myself when that dog died.
“That’s why I’m here. I don’t want him to be able to do this again.”
Osthoff said he was living in a tent on the side of a road in Howell, NJ, with his dog Sapphire in 2016 when he heard about a pet charity, Friends of Pets United, run by Anthony Devolder, an alias used by Santos.
Sapphire had a life-threatening stomach tumor, her condition was worsening, and a veterinarian told Osthoff that the dog would need surgery that could cost about $3,000.
Osthoff, who was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2002, said a veterinary technician referred him to Santos and the charity, saying she “gave me glowing reviews about him.”
“Supposedly, he seemed like he was on the up and up. She showed me other pictures of other animals that he supposedly had these GoFundMes for,” he told CNN. “I was in a desperate situation. I was living in a tent. I didn’t have the money to get the dog taken care of myself. So, I was ready for the help.”
Eventually, he met up with Santos and they set up a GoFundMe page for Sapphire.
The account raised $3,000, none of which Osthoff said he ever got because Santos closed it and deleted the page.
He said he became “frustrated” and confronted Santos.
“I knew that I wasn’t going to get any money out of this guy. So, I irked him a little bit when I told him that I didn’t think that he was legitimate and then I thought he was, like you mentioned before, mining my dog and my friends’ and families’ hearts for money,” he said.
Osthoff, 47, said he believes Santos created the conflict on purpose.
“He wanted me to get mad at him and storm off and give up on it. And it just devolved from there. He wouldn’t answer calls anymore,” Osthoff said.
Sapphire died on Jan. 15, 2017.
Santos, who was elected Nov. 8 to represent a district that covers parts of Nassau County and Queens, has denied Osthoff’s claims and has said he doesn’t know the Navy vet.
CNN’s Don Lemon said that Santos told him in response to Osthoff that he would “go to hell and back for a dog.”
“Then go to hell. He said, he’d ‘go to hell and back.’ Well, then, go to hell, George,” Osthoff fired back.
The veteran said he didn’t make the connection between Santos and Devolder until last week.
“I started seeing his face,” Osthoff said. “And I knew his voice. And that was the only thing I knew about him. And I saw him on TV and I was like, ’I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach about this guy. Who is he and why do I recognize him?’” Osthoff told CNN’s Erin Burnett Wednesday.
“And then, that was in December right around Christmastime. Just about a week ago, he was in the Capitol and there was a bunch of reporters following him around asking questions. That’s about the only thing you see of him anymore. And one of them said, ‘What’s your name today? Is it Anthony Devolder or is it George Santos?’” he said.
“I was sick.”
“To see that somebody like that who could do something that dastardly could raise to such a high position isn’t right. That shouldn’t happen,” Osthoff added.
The freshman legislator has admitted to fabricating whole portions of his resume, including his work history, educational background, his religion and his mother’s whereabouts on Sept. 11, 2001.
A report on Wednesday found that Fatima A.C.H. Devolder was in her native Brazil for the entirety of 2001, contrary to claims on Santos’ campaign website that she was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
The newly minted congressman is facing increasing calls from top Republicans to step down, including from members of the New York House delegation and the Nassau County Republican Committee.
Osthoff was also asked Thursday about Santos claiming that he was Jewish — he later claimed he said he was “Jew-ish” — and his mother’s death was caused by 9/11.
“It’s horrible. How do you lie about that? How do you lie about being Jewish? How do you lie. … I mean, this guy, he doesn’t deserve to be where he’s at, he doesn’t deserve a government pension,” Osthoff said.
”I’m a very personal, private person. I don’t have very many friends. I stay at home with my dogs for the most [part] and I’m fine. I don’t want to be out here doing this. I don’t like the media attention. I don’t like my phone blowing up and stuff,” he went on.
“But when I saw him on the news as Anthony Devolder, I put two and two together, I ripped the scab off and it felt like my dog died yesterday. It hurt me that much all over again.”