The 34-year-old US politician has been charged on 13 counts including seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, according to the Justice Department.
Santos, who has resisted calls to resign for lying about his resume, was arrested ahead of an expected court appearance in New York.
The indictment charges Santos with defrauding prospective political supporters by laundering funds to pay for his personal expenses and illegally receiving unemployment benefits while he was employed.
He is also accused of making false statements to the House of Representatives about his assets, income and liabilities.
Federal prosecutors have been examining false statement allegations in Santos’ campaign filings.
US Attorney Breon Peace said the indictment “seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations.”
“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” he added.
Since he was elected in November, Santos has been at the center of a web of extraordinary revelations and accusations covering everything from his heritage to jobs he simply never held.
Shortly after his election victory, a New York Times investigation found a number of false claims he made on his CV about his personal and professional history.
He is accused of fabricating parts of his CV while running for Congress.
Among other claims, Santos said he had degrees from New York University and Baruch College, despite neither institution having any record of his attending. He claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, which also was untrue.
Many of his fellow New York Republicans called on him to resign after his history of fabrications was revealed.
Santos, who represents New York’s 3rd Congressional District, has since admitted to “embellishing” parts of his resume, but continues to deny the more serious allegations.