Steve Bannon and Others Charged with $ 25 Million GoFundMe “Build The Wall” Scam
Stephen K. Bannon, widely regarded as the architect of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was arrested today and charged with fraud along with three other men over his role in a private online fundraiser to build the President’s high-profile wall on the Mexican border.
As of noon on August 20, senior MAGA agents were still soliciting donations on the “We Build The Wall” fundraising campaign site. These include Donald Trump, Jr .; his girlfriend and Trump’s best fundraiser, Kimberly Guilfoyle; former Trump campaign manager and lobbyist Corey Lewandowski; Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert Jr. and Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, union representative of 16,000 border patrol officers.
However, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah referred questions about the indictments to the Justice Department, saying it was “not a White House affair,” Fox reported.
One of Trump’s campaign promises in 2015 was that he would build a wall and make Mexico pay. Mexico was not prepared to pay for it, but apparently 500,000 US citizens were. They raised over $ 25 million and helped enrich fundraisers.
“We Build the Wall” began as a GoFundMe campaign in 2018 by US Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage to collect donations to build private sections of the wall along the US-Mexico border.
He raised over $ 25 million for the president’s plan to build the wall.
Bannon and three other men – two from Florida – “conned 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 that money would be spent on construction.” , Audrey Strauss, the Interim American Lawyer in Manhattan, said in a statement Thursday.
Kolfage, 38, of Miramar Beach, Fla., Is also arrested along with Bannon; Andrew Badolato, 56, a financier from Sarasota, Florida; and Timothy Shea, 49, of Castle Rock, Colorado, New York Times reported.
Bannon was arrested Thursday morning in Connecticut by U.S. postal inspectors and taken to Manhattan where he is scheduled to appear before a U.S. investigating judge later today.
Founder Kolfage promised donors that he “would not take a penny from salary or compensation” and that any money he raised would be used “in carrying out our mission and purpose,” according to prosecutors.
Instead, prosecutors said, Kolfage secretly took more than $ 350,000 in donations for his personal use. Bannon, Trump’s former senior adviser, received over $ 1 million from “We Build the Wall” and he used part of it to reimburse hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses.
To hide the flow of illegal money, prosecutors said, the four men funneled payments for “We Build the Wall” through Bannon’s nonprofit group and through a shell company controlled by Shea.
According to the indictment, Bannon and his co-accused Kolfage told the public that they were a “volunteer organization” and that 100% of the money raised would go to their stated purpose – to raise money for the federal government. build a wall along the United States. -Mexican border.
Bannon and the others used the nonprofit and a shell company to hide payments to Kolfage “using bogus invoices and fictitious” vendor “arrangements,” as well as other means of keeping payments silent. . The indictment stated that in order to raise funds, Kolfage and Bannon had “repeatedly and falsely” told the public that Kolfage “would not take a dime” in compensation, Fox News reported.
Kolfage made payments to his wife, and this was reflected in a 1099 form issued by the association, indicating that the payment was intended for “the media”.
The campaign’s website promised they would “pay back every penny” if they failed to meet their fundraising goal, according to the indictment.
The campaign raised $ 17 million in the week following its launch in December 2018, prosecutors said. Concerned about where the money was going, the crowdfunding platform asked Kolfage to identify a nonprofit organization to which the money would go or the funds would be returned. It was then that Bannon and Badolato created the non-profit association We Build the Wall Inc.
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When Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato learned in the fall of 2019 that they were under federal investigation, they “took further steps to cover up the fraudulent scheme”, according to the indictment. This would have included using encrypted messaging apps, stopping Kolfage’s salary payments, removing the site of the party that said he would not be compensated, and adding that he would start receiving a salary in January 2020.
“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 that money would be spent on construction,” Strauss said.
All of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit electronic fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.