Former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon was just arrested on Thursday along with triple-amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage for allegedly stealing donors funds from a fundraiser called “We Build This Wall.”
A Manhattan federal court indicted Bannon and his associates on charges of “orchestrating a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” by way of a crowdfunding effort that claimed to be raising money to build the Southern border wall.
The fundraising scheme
Prosecutors allege that Bannon and Kolfage raised $25 million for the “Build the Wall” fundraiser under false pretenses and instead used the money for their own personal expenses.
According to the indictments, Bannon’s fundraiser promised to forward 100% of the proceeds towards building a section of the southern border wall, but Bannon and Kolfage allegedly diverted hundreds of thousands of the funds for their own personal use.
The Associated Press reported that “The indictment said they faked invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to hide what was really happening.”
“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,” Acting SDNY U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett claimed that Bannon and Kolfage “schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and covering up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth.”
According to unsealed Justice Department documents, Kolfage received $350,000 from the fundraiser for personal use, and Bannon received over $1 million from the group.
Bartlett warned, “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.”
Bannon under fire
Bannon, who once headed conservative news outlet Breitbart News, joined Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as his chief executive officer in the final months of the contentious race.
Bannon stayed with the Trump administration for several months as one of Trump’s chief advisers before being let go in August in 2017 after it was reported that Bannon clashed with Trump and his other top advisers.
Despite being unceremoniously pushed out of the Trump administration, Bannon remained an outspoken Trump supporter, organizing the “Build the Wall” fundraiser after D.C. politicians blocked Congress from funding the wall. Bannon also hosts a pro-Trump podcast entitled “War Room.”