The allegations were announced by the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss and Philip R. Bartlett, the Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea were also arrested and stand accused of profiting from the crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $25 million, according to the announcement. The scheme allegedly predicated on funneling money from the campaign directly to Kolfage, who told donors he would not take any compensation for his work. Instead, he is said to have taken $350,000 of the donors money for his personal use. Each are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each charge.
“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,” said Bartlett. “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.”
The four men were each presented in different locations after their arrests, per the announcement:
- Kolfage, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hope T. Cannon/Northern District of Florida
- Bannon, in the Southern District of New York
- Badolato, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson/Middle District of Florida.
- Shea, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix/District of Colorado.
"Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was indicted for defrauding millions for a privately-funded border wall. And in a third-act twist only found in 2020, he was arrested by agents from the U.S. Postal Service. https://twitter.com/i/status/1296583322991235074"
The We Build the Wall website advertised opportunities to help get the Trump campaign’s seminal concept, a boarder wall separating the U.S. and Mexico, built on private properties at a lower cost then the government. “If you are sick and tired of watching politicians in both parties obstructing President Trump's plan to build a wall on our southern border, then you have come to the right place,” reads the website.
Organizers said they would facilitate the design, construction, management and operations of the wall. Their mission, states the website, is to unite citizens in the “common belief in providing national security for our Southern Border through the construction, administration and maintenance of physical barriers inhibiting illegal entry into the United States.”
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in the Southern District of New York, according to information from the attorney’s office.
“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,” Strauss said. “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.”