Santos reaps the benefits of notoriety while the prospect of prison still looms

If there was any idea that the expulsion of George Santos from the House of Representatives might find him in a state of worn disgrace, the last few days would seem to prove Otherwise.

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

He became a hit attraction on Cameo, raising the price for recording a video message to $500, instantly placing him among the site’s top talent.

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

This, he added, “is actually a fact.”

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

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

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

“It’s not a nice place, and I definitely want to work very hard to avoid it as best I can,” he said darkly.

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

“Community service, I mean, if that’s what they offer, I’ll gladly do it,” he said.

Former prosecutors have suggested in interviews that 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 white-collar defense group at the law firm Cole Schotz.

“He is accused of serious crimes, and there is an improvement because he is a public official and he is in a position of trust,” Weinstein said.

Many factors come into play in crafting a plea deal, from the charges themselves to the amount of money involved.

For guidance, Mr. Santos might look to his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, who pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy for misrepresenting campaign finances and helping to conceal a fictitious $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 accused of defrauding, a potentially costly endeavor offset only by his newfound success on Cameo. The effort attracted the attention and money of late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who told viewers he surreptitiously paid for a number of messages to see if there was anything Mr. Santos wouldn’t say.

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

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

Mr. Santos accused Mr. Kimmel of misusing his videos and demanded 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 file was a request from federal prosecutors to move the trial against Santos from September to spring.

Mr. Murray opposed such a move, saying that between pretrial plea negotiations and more than a million pages of evidence turned over by prosecutors, he simply had too much to resolve.

The judge, Joanna Seybert, said she would be willing to move the trial forward if an earlier date was available. However, she seemed inclined to leave the September date in place for now, noting the volume of evidence.

On at least one point, Judge Seybert said the way was clear for progress to be made before the next conference on January 23.

“We don’t have a problem with the defendant having to travel to Washington on a regular basis,” the judge said.