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20 Aug, 2020 13:46

Steve Bannon & 3 others ARRESTED, charged with border wall fundraiser fraud

Steve Bannon & 3 others ARRESTED, charged with border wall fundraiser fraud

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.

Bannon is expected to plead not guilty, according to multiple reports citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

However, the former Trump strategist’s troubles may have only begun. GTV Media Group, a media company he launched earlier this year with exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, is under investigation by state and federal authorities over a $300 million private offering, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday. Multiple banks have reportedly frozen accounts associated with the round of fundraising.

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Earlier this week, Kolfage announced We Build the Wall would be moving from GoFundMe, saying it was because the platform “supports the racist attacks by #BlackLivesMatter.” He nevertheless congratulated donors on “the largest GoFundMe campaign in history.

Kolfage’s latest fundraiser, “Black Lives Matter is now a Racist Hate Group,” had been deleted from the crowdfunding platform.

We Build the Wall actually did build a half-mile segment of wall on private land in Sunland Park, New Mexico last year. However, critics pointed out that migrants could simply walk around the fence and cross the border elsewhere.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany played down Bannon’s former role within the Trump campaign in a statement following his arrest, explaining “President Trump has not been involved with Steve Bannon since the campaign and the early part of the Administration, and he does not know the people involved with this project.” Promotional materials for We Build the Wall had included an image of Trump giving the thumbs-up gesture and the phrase “Trump approved!

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