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Santos Reaps Notoriety’s Rewards as Prospect of Prison Still Looms

If there were any notion that George Santos’s expulsion from the House of Representatives might find him in a state of self-worn disgrace, the past several days would appear to prove otherwise.

In the 10 days since he was kicked out of Congress, Mr. Santos has carried his hard-won notoriety with panache. He has participated in several, lengthy on-camera interviews, including a yet-to-be aired segment with the comedian Ziwe Fumudoh.

He has become a breakout attraction on Cameo, raising his price for a recording video message to $500, immediately placing him among the site’s top-shelf talent.

So many people have bought his videos that in an interview this past weekend with Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV, Mr. Santos said he had already earned the equivalent of his $174,000 congressional salary in one week.

That, he added, “is actually factual.”

But for Mr. Santos, the price of that notoriety may be looming. On Tuesday, he appeared in federal court on Long Island, where prosecutors and his lawyer told a judge that they were in the early stages of negotiating a plea agreement that could negate the need for a trial.

Mr. Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 felony charges. Leaving court on Tuesday, he declined to comment on the plea negotiations, Cameo or anything else.

He was more forthcoming in his interview with Ms. Kramer, saying that he was afraid of going to prison.

“It’s not a pretty place, and I definitely want to work very hard to avoid that as best as possible,” he said somberly.

When asked whether he would accept a sentence of community service, Mr. Santos looked almost pained.

“Community service, I mean, if that’s what they’re offering, I’ll do it happily,” he said.

Former prosecutors suggested in interviews any deal would most likely include some prison time. The question, they said, was how much.

“I don’t see him getting probation or going to a halfway house,” said Michael Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who now leads the whit-collar defense group at the law firm Cole Schotz.

“He’s charged with serious crimes, and there’s an enhancement because he’s a public official and he’s in a position of trust,” Mr. Weinstein said.

George Santos Lost His Job. Here Are the Lies, Charges and Questions Left.

George Santos, who was expelled from Congress, has told so many stories they can be hard to keep straight. We cataloged them, including major questions about his personal finances and his campaign fund-raising and spending.

Many factors go into crafting a plea agreement, from the charges themselves to the amount of money involved.

For guidance, Mr. Santos could consider his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, who pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy for misrepresenting the campaign’s finances and helping to conceal a fictional $500,000 loan. Under the terms of her plea agreement, Ms. Marks could be sentenced to between 42 and 48 months in prison, although it would not be unusual for her to be sentenced to less.

A plea deal could also require Mr. Santos to pay restitution to those he is charged with defrauding, a potentially costly endeavor offset only by his newfound success on Cameo. The effort has attracted the attention and money of late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who told viewers he had surreptitiously paid for a number of messages to see if there was anything Mr. Santos would not say.

For example, Mr. Kimmel requested a message for a fictional blind niece who had crashed her car.

“You got into that little accident … look a body cast ain’t much,” Mr. Santos said in the video, concluding “Jesus and President Trump will make sure that you’re back on the road soon.”

Mr. Santos has accused Mr. Kimmel of misusing his videos, and has asked that the comedian pay him more than $20,000 for usage rights, according to Mr. Kimmel, leading him to joke: “Can you imagine if I get sued by George Santos for fraud?”

Less attitude was on display Tuesday morning, when Mr. Santos and his lawyer, Joseph Murray, appeared before a judge in Central Islip, N.Y.

On the docket was a request from federal prosecutors that Mr. Santos’s trial be moved up from September to sometime in the spring.

Mr. Murray argued against such a move, saying that between preliminary plea negotiations and the more than one million pages of evidence prosecutors had turned over, he simply had too much to sort through.

The judge, Joanna Seybert, said she would be open to moving the trial up if an earlier date became available. Still, she seemed inclined to let the September date stand for the time being, noting the volume of evidence.

On at least one count, Judge Seybert said the way had been cleared for progress to be made before the next conference on Jan. 23.

“We don’t have the issue of the defendant having to go to Washington on a regular basis,” the judge said.

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