Steve Bannon, a former campaign manager for and advisor to President Donald Trump, has been arrested and charged with fraud. Bannon and three others – Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea – were indicted by a New York prosecutor Thursday for their involvement in a group called "We Build the Wall."
STEVE BANNON and three others indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the ‘We Build The Wall’ campaign.August 20, 2020
According to the charging documents, Bannon and the three others are accused of defrauding donors in a fundraising scheme that raised "more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States." The documents accuse that Bannon and Kolfage, an Iraq war veteran, "repeatedly and falsely assured the public that Kolfage 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.'" The document states that
"those representations were false."
Prosecutors claim that the defendants "collectively received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from 'We Build the Wall,' which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations." Bannon allegedly received more than $1 million from the scheme, which he used to "secretly pay Kolfage," who reportedly received $350,000 in funds from donations, and "to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon's personal expenses." The four defendants then allegedly devised a scheme "to route those payments" from the "We Build the Wall" group to Kolfage "indirectly."
"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, according to CNBC. "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."
The Associated Press reports that Bannon could not be reached for comment. A phone at the office for his lawyer "went unanswered Thursday morning" and a spokesperson for Bannon "did not immediately respond to a request for comment."