DOJ: Steve Bannon and Other ‘We Build The Wall’ Leaders Have Been Indicted on Fraud Charges
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and three other leaders of the “We Build the Wall” self-funded border wall project have been indicted on fraud charges, a Department of Justice press release has confirmed.
Bannon is being indicted alongside Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea for allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands from the campaign. The “We Build the Wall” campaign has traveled the country raising funds for a privately-funded wall on the U.S. southern border. President Donald Trump has been critical of the project.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said.
The feds claim that the four individuals concocted a sophisticated scheme in order to enjoy the spoils from the millions of dollars that were raised through the project.
“While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle. We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it,” Strauss said.
The feds hope to make an example of the right-wing individuals behind the “We Build the Wall” project, with November’s election right around the corner.
“The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds. As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth. This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist,” Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said.
The feds are claiming that Kolfage and Bannon defrauded the public while fundraising for the border wall project. They reference a statement Kolfage made to supporters that he would “not take a penny in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised . . . will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose.” Bannon also stated that “we’re a volunteer organization,” which the feds believe was a falsehood.
They allege that Bannon received over $1 million through his nonprofit from the project while Kolfage cashed out to the tune of $350,000. A shell company was allegedly used to funnel Kolfage’s payments through Bannon’s nonprofit. Phony invoices and vendor arrangements were made in order to obfuscate Kolfage’s payoffs, according to the feds.
Bannon, Kolfage, Shea and Badolato are each being charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and another count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Both counts carry a maximum of 20 years in prison. Bannon could spend the rest of his life behind bars if he is found guilty of the charges.
President Donald Trump has warned in the past that the “We Build the Wall” project was dubious and launched by people out to undermine his own border wall:
It appears that the president’s concerns were valid, as the individuals behind the project may be serving major jail time in the near future.