Steve Bannon charged with fraud over Mexico wall funds

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been arrested and charged with fraud over a fundraising campaign to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Mr Bannon and three others defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with the “We Build the Wall” campaign, which raised $25m (£19m), the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said.

Mr Bannon received more than $1m, at least some of which he used to cover personal expenses, the DoJ said.

He is due to appear in court later.

The “We build the wall” campaign pledged to use donations to build segments of the border barrier – whose construction was a key Trump promise during the 2016 election – on private land.

But Audrey Strauss, the Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), said Mr Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea had “defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalising on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretence that all of that money would be spent on construction”.

Mr Bannon had received more than $1m through a non-profit organisation he controlled, at least some of which he used to cover “hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon’s personal expenses”, the DoJ said.

Meanwhile, Mr Kolfage – founder of “We Build the Wall” – covertly took $350,000 for his personal use, the statement 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,” Ms Strauss said.

SDNY Inspector-in-Charge Philip R Bartlett said the four created “sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth”.

“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,” he said.

Mr Bannon and the three others launched the scheme in December 2018. the DoJ said, and during the campaign Mr Kolfage said that all of the money donated would go towards construction while Mr Bannon publicly said, “We’re a volunteer organisation”.

All four defendants 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.

Mr Bannon, 66, will appear in court in the SDNY. Mr Kolfage and Mr Badolato will appear in separate courts in Florida and Mr Shea will appear in Colorado.

The line between legitimate online political fundraising and swindling is sometimes a fine one. Federal prosecutors are now alleging that Steve Bannon, a former top political advisor for Donald Trump, crossed it.

Mr Bannon was one of those fringe figures who rode Trump’s improbable rise to the presidency to national prominence. His time in actual power at the White House was short-lived, however.

Donald Trump reportedly resented news reports painting Mr Bannon as the “brains” behind the president – a perception boosted by Mr Bannon’s willingness to talk with the press.

Since then he mostly has been confined to advocating for the president from the sidelines – and participating in sometimes questionable side projects like this wall foundation.

That this indictment comes out of the Southern District of New York, the federal prosecutorial office that has handled other high-profile cases involving Trump associates, will stir greater interest in the indictment. The district was itself the source of recent controversy when Attorney General Bill Barr abruptly fired its head, Geoffrey Berman.

After criticism, Mr Barr was forced to abandon his choice for a temporary replacement, and Mr Berman’s top deputy moved into the job, instead.

It was this woman, Audrey Strauss, who announced Mr Bannon’s indictment.

(c) BBC

13 comments

  • Trump won’t be happy, people stealing money for his pet project.

    Liked by 5 people

  • Trump associate: check, putler jackboot licker: check, liar: check, swindler: check, thief: check.
    No different from anyone else on the staggeringly long list of putler shills who work for or have worked for Trumpkov.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Or the long list of those you mentioned that Trump has fired…

      Like

      • He hires hordes of filthy stinking putler shills and fires them when they are exposed as criminals, not because he disapproved of them. The rat Giuliani still works for him and will do until he gets caught for something.
        Trumpkov already got Manafort and Flynn reduced sentences and now the vermin Stone got off completely. Proud?
        Bannon will likely flip if he faces 40 years.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, I know, Everything would have been SO much better for Ukraine if Hillary was elected instead…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Irrelevant redders, since that is not in dispute. Just focus one what is known about Trumpkov and it is absolutely horrible. The only thing that is in doubt is whether the rodent bought influence, got it by kompromat or whether it is simply the case that he is a deep admirer of the rodent for his own disturbing reasons, as the groveling letters he wrote show. Or it could well be all three.
            I do not know how you can countenance supporting a man who believes that Ukraine is Russia, habitually employs filthy putler shills, lobbies for the re-admission into the G8. This is the man who claimed that Litvinenko’s murder was nothing to do with Russia and that putler is a great guy.

            Liked by 3 people

            • I’m sure he tried and probably succeeded in penetrating BOTH sides. We have seen evidence to that effect. Sooner or later we have to accept the world as it is and not as we would have it. The problem is Putler and nobody else. Biting the hand that feeds you will not help you eat tomorrow. No US president has helped Ukraine more than Trump the last 30 years. No he’s not perfect but do you really think he deserves your daily slime? Who does that really help? When was the last time a Ukrainian complained about Trump? Still irrelevant?

              Liked by 2 people

              • I give only factual information about Trumpkov that is in the public domain and not disputed by the senate, the Feds, or anyone else except Trumpkov and his filthy, Putin-loving associates.
                Trump hates Ukraine, wants it absorbed by Russia and never helps at all. The help Ukraine receives is in spite of, not because of Trump.
                I am well aware that the Dems (with some exceptions) are indifferent to Ukraine. They only latched onto a pro-Ukraine narrative to ‘get’ Trump.
                But it is you who is out of line redders. Despite the almost endless stream of hard information that has come out of Trump since his campaign in 2016, you have put your fingers in your ears and gone ‘la la la’!
                I can even name the moment when Trump went full putler from being ‘normal’ on the topic: his switch came in 2014 during the invasion on an appearance on The Savage Nation. The episode has mysteriously been deleted from YouTube, but I am sure you can recall my description of it on these pages?
                Unless you believe I’m a deep cover Demtroll, I hope you will accept my word on the matter.

                Liked by 2 people

                • I refuse to be that myopic. I will continue to wait for the answers to my questions above. Meanwhile, enjoy your fantasy friend. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. If you can’t see the world for what it is then I give up. The only person you are helping is Putler, not Ukraine. Please continue to wallow in your hate.

                  Like

                  • You usually revert to insults when faced with overwhelming incontrovertible proof of his hatred of Ukraine. It’s even on video in his notorious 2016 interview with George Stephanopoulus. Rather than walking back on it, he’s actually got worse!
                    For patriotic English reasons I support Trump in November. But he has to be called out on his abysmal Ukraine record.
                    So no I don’t hate Trump. I loathe his endless choice of vile putlerite criminals as sidekicks. Ukraine is hardly in any position to say anything bad about him, as there is a more than 50/50 chance he will be re-elected.
                    I don’t hate you either redders. You are a great bloke, but sometimes friends have to point out when you are making an error of logic.
                    But if you would rather I just take a hike from this site, I respect that too.

                    Liked by 1 person

  • Sounds like a case in mafia land or Ukraine! I hope they get thoroughly burnt – if they are guilty.

    Liked by 3 people

  • Berman was fired for a reason. He was prosecuting those who were inconvenient to the left. The SDNY won’t go after the biggest frauds who stole from their foundation and sent no aid to Haiti when the foundation was supposedly raising it for that very purpose. The Clinton Foundation is little more than a money laundering scam for the Clintons and a number of other members of the Democrat Party establishment, yet, SDNY does nothing. The investigation and charges are suspect.

    Liked by 2 people

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