Former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and three other defendants were arrested on Thursday morning and charged with fraud by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, Timothy Shea, and Andrew Badolato, were charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to “We Build the Wall,” an online crowdfunding campaign that has raised over $25 million in funds for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Bannon was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The indictment is a stunning turn of events for Bannon, who was the architect of President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and upset victory over Hillary Clinton.
“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,” U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. “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.”
In a press release, the U.S. attorney’s office said that the four defendants “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.”
President Trump’s former adviser “received over $1 million from We Build the Wall, at least some of which Bannon used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon’s personal expenses.” Kolfage, an Air Force veteran and triple-amputee, allegedly used donations to the campaign for plastic surgery, credit card debt, a boat, and house renovations.