Publisher's note: This post appears here courtesy of the The Daily Wire, and written by Tim Pearce.
Federal authorities have charged former White House adviser Steve Bannon with defrauding "hundreds of thousands of donors" with a campaign purportedly set up to build a wall along the U.S. southern border.
Along with Bannon, authorities arrested three other We Build The Wall organizers and executives: Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea. The We Build The Wall nonprofit has raised over $25 million since it was announced in early 2019.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) announced the indictments and arrests in a press release on Friday. Each man involved is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
"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 in a statement
. "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."
Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran, worked with Bannon to sell We Build The Wall's mission and raise massive amounts of money, much of which was then used to pay for the men's lifestyles and settle personal expenses, according to the SDNY. Kolfage allegedly took $350,000 from donor funds while Bannon allegedly misdirected over $1 million.
We Build The Wall was sold to donors first as a way to fund President Trump's push to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, then as a private venture to build the wall after Kolfage
said the federal government would not accept the funds. Kolfage claimed that his nonprofit's bylaws barred him from taking a salary, and Bannon sold the campaign as "a volunteer organization." Early reports raised skepticism about the operation, however, after Kolfage refused
to make public the bylaws of his organization that he had cited.
The New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) aided the SDNY in the investigation.
"The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds,"
said Philip Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the USPIS's New York office. "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."