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- A Brazilian man claims a friend advised him not to go on a Grindr date with George Santos in 2013.
- The friend warned him that Santos had a reputation in New York for being a compulsive liar.
- Santos is now a Republican congressman who has been caught in a web of fabrications and lies.
A Brazilian man said he was warned by a friend not to go on a Grindr date with Rep. George Santos in 2013 because Santos — now an embattled GOP congressman — already had a reputation in for lying.
Erick Hagapto, a comptroller living in São Paulo, Brazil, claims he started speaking to Santos on Grindr, the gay dating app, in late December 2013 during a vacation in New York City.
Hagapto said Santos, who was using the alias Anthony Zabrovsky, invited him for dinner at a local restaurant, but that Hagapto’s friend advised him against going after recognizing Santos’ face in photos.
“My friend said he is a liar, don’t ever believe him,” Hagapto recalled during a conversation with Insider. He said he went ahead with the date anyway.
Insider has seen screenshots that show Santos and Hagapto regularly tagging each other in Facebook and Instagram posts from 2014. The two remain connected on social media.
The friend, Flavio Azzari, also told Insider that he advised Hagapto against a meet-up. “People told me after I met him in 2013 that he wasn’t a good boy,” Azzari said of Santos, adding that he urged Hagapto to be careful.
Azzari said he was introduced to Santos earlier in 2013, and that former colleagues of his, who worked at a Brazilian restaurant in Queens, told him that Santos was known for compulsively lying about his family and career.
Santos won his New York election in an upset vote in the November midterms, but a New York Times investigation found he had lied about large parts of his resume and background.
The newly minted lawmaker later admitted to The New York Post that he had lied about working for Goldman Sachs and Citi Group. Santos since has been accused of lying about his mother being present at 9/11, being Jewish, and dressing up in drag, among other falsehoods.
Santos did not respond to a request for comment from Insider. He has brushed off other requests from the media, promising to respond fully some time in the future.
At the time of the Grindr date, Azzari and Hagapto said, Santos was claiming to be a TV reporter for the Brazilian media outlet Globo. Santos also made the claim to a former roommate.
Insider contacted Globo for comment but did not receive a response. The job does not appear on a version of his resume published by The New York Times, and neither Insider nor The Times could find any evidence of Santos working there.
Despite Azzari’s warning, Hagapto said he went to the dinner. “He’s a liar, but at that moment it was not relevant because people generally lie on Grindr,” he said.
At the restaurant, Hagapto said there were a few surprises that made him question Santos’ honesty.
The first shock was that Santos did not look like the photos he had sent on Grindr, he said. “The photo he sent on Grindr, it was a handsome man, but, in person, a little bit different.”
The next surprise, after what Hagapto said was an enjoyable meal, came when they added each other on social media. Hagapto knew him as Anthony Zabrovsky but, he said, Santos used another name on Facebook and Instagram — Anthony Devolder. (Santos has used that name in other situations.)
Hagapto said that a few days after the dinner, Santos promised to get him an invite to an exclusive New Year’s Eve party near Times Square. The invite never came.
“I think that was also a lie,” he said.
They continued chatting for several months but eventually fell out of touch, Hagapto said.
A decade later, when he saw the news that a familiar-looking US congressman was in trouble for fabricating his life story, he was shocked.
“I was surprised at the news,” said Hagapto, “because I did not know that person as George Santos.”