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Former advisor to President Trump among four charged with border wall fraud

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Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2020. 1:18 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Former Counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, 66, has been arrested and charged with fraud over a fundraising campaign to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, the BBC reports.

Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, is 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.

Bannon will appear in court in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, based in Manhattan, New York City. Kolfage and Badolato will appear in separate courts in Florida and Shea will appear in Colorado.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) accused the quartet of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to the “We Build the Wall” campaign which raised US$25 million to build segments of the wall, a Trump campaign promise to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States on private property.

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the SDNY, said Bannon had “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”, according to the BBC.

Instead, he took US$1 million from a non-profit organization to cover in part his personal expenses; Kolfage, the founder of the campaign took US$350,000 for his personal use despite insisting publicly he would not be paid a cent.

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.

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

 

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