Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested on Thursday after being charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through his “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign.
Bannon, along with three of his associates were indicted by investigators for the Southern District of New York on Thursday. They allege that the group of conservative leaders defrauded donors and that led to raising “more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States,” according to the press release.
The others mentioned in the indictment are Timothy Shea, who in May was announced as the Acting Administrator of Drug Enforcement Administration, Brian Kolfage, a Iraq war veteran, and Andrew Badolato.
The campaign was intended to raise money to help President Donald Trump fulfill a campaign promise of building a border wall along the border. Instead, prosecutors allege, that Bannon and his team profited off of the arrangement.
Prosecutors claim that the defendants “collectively 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,” according to the indictment.
“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,” Acting 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. We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it.”
Kolfage, 37, a veteran and triple amputee, in late 2018 launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. His effort came amid a stalemate over government funding on Capitol Hill, where Trump demanded that any spending package include billions of dollars to go toward his proposed border wall. The deadlock culminated in the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history.
Kolfage’s effort quickly went viral and raised millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of donors – but GoFundMe threatened to suspend the wall-building campaign unless Kolfage “identified a legitimate non-profit organization into which those funds could be transferred,” according to the indictment.