Former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon, triple-amputee Air Force vet Brian Kolfage and two others have been arrested and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors with their ‘We Build the Wall’ online fundraiser.
Bannon, Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea are accused of scamming over $25 million under the guise of raising funds to build a wall on the US’ southern border with Mexico in an indictment unsealed Thursday in Manhattan federal court.
While donors to the crowdfunding campaign were told Kolfage, the public face of We Build the Wall, “would not be paid a cent,” the quartet allegedly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to themselves, concealing the transactions with phony invoices and accounts.
We Build the Wall “capitaliz[ed] on [donors’] 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 US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement on Thursday.
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.
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Bannon, who claimed We Build the Wall was a “volunteer organization,” is accused of receiving over $1 million from the ‘charity,’ channeled through a nonprofit he controlled. That organization and a shell company under Shea’s control were also used to channel $350,000 to Kolfage for his personal use “in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.” The men allegedly worked together on a system of “fake invoices and sham ‘vendor’ arrangements’” to conceal the payments.
The four are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud each. Both crimes carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
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