Steven Bannon, former administration chief and strategist for President Donald Trump, was arrested Thursday and indicted in connection with an online fundraising campaign that allegedly defrauded donors.
- Bannon and co-defendant Brian Kolfage told the public they were a part of a “volunteer organization” — called “We Build the Wall” — that would put 100% of money raised toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the indictment.
- The account received more than $25 million, according to the indictment.
- The indictment also says Bannon — through a nonprofit — took $1 million to cover hundreds of thousands in personal expenses.
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. 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. — Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
- On Wednesday, Kolfage deleted the GoFundMe page for the organization. He said GoFundMe acted with “censorship” after it shut down a separate account suing Black Lives Matter.
- Bannon, Kolfage and two other defendants — Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea — are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
How it happened:
- Per the indictment, Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato made an agreement for Kolfage to be paid $100,000 and then $20,000 per month.
- Bannon agreed to push the payments through a nonprofit he controlled.
- In February 2019 Bannon and Badolato told the nonprofit to pay Kolfage $100,000 through We Build the Wall, CNN reports.