Steve Bannon charged in alleged border wall fundraising scheme

Steve Bannon charged in alleged border wall fundraising scheme, by Corinne Ramey.

Former senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been arrested and charged with fraud for what federal prosecutors said was a scheme to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from a crowdfunding campaign that aimed to help achieve one of the president’s signature campaign promises: building a wall along the Southern US border.

The We Build the Wall campaign wasn’t connected to President Trump but was promoted by several people close to him. It raised more than $US25 million, according to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, which brought the case. The group has spent less than half of its funds on two short stretches of wall in New Mexico and Texas.

“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,” Acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. …

In addition to Mr Bannon, the indictment charges Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. …

Gotcha!?

Mr Bannon joins a half-dozen other Trump associates who have been indicted or convicted in recent years. A federal jury last fall found Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the president who advised his 2016 campaign, guilty of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his work on the Trump campaign. Michael Cohen, the president’s former longtime lawyer, and Paul Manafort, one of the president’s 2016 campaign chairmen, are currently serving out their sentences. Other associates of the president are awaiting sentencing.

The US attorney’s office in Manhattan has led many of the investigations into Mr Trump’s allies. …

Mr Trump on Thursday told reporters both that he didn’t know anything about the We Build the Wall campaign, and that he didn’t like the project because he thought it was “being done for showboating reasons.” He said he hadn’t dealt with Mr Bannon “for a very long period of time.” …

Looks bad:

Since December 2018, the four men convinced people to donate to the campaign, telling the public they do “not take a penny in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised…will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose,” prosecutors said. They said Mr Bannon stated publicly, “We’re a volunteer organisation.”

Prosecutors said the four men received hundreds of thousands of donor funds from the organisation. Mr Kolfage took more than $US350,000, according to prosecutors. Mr. Bannon, who received more than $US1 million, used an unnamed nonprofit to cover his personal expenses, prosecutors said.

We Build the Wall has touted raising more than $US25 million from 500,000 donors, including more than $US17 million on GoFundMe. …

When the fundraising effort began in 2018, We Build the Wall said it would deliver money to the federal government. When it became clear that wouldn’t be possible, the group changed its goal and became a nonprofit in 2019. GoFundMe offered donors the option of a refund at that time, said Mr Whithorne.

We Build the Wall first paid for half a mile of private border wall built by construction firm Fisher Industries in Sunland Park, N.M. Mr Kolfage said in a December interview that the work cost about $US9 million.

Mr Kolfage said the group’s chief financial officer, Amanda Shea, was a paid employee, but he himself was a volunteer. Ms Shea is the wife of Mr Shea, according to multiple media accounts. …

In December, Mr Kolfage said the group had spent at least $US1 million hosting events and paying lawyers, had $US8 million in the bank and $US5 million in pledges, but the group’s claims and fundraising have drawn legal scrutiny, including an investigation in Florida, where it is registered as a nonprofit.

It may take a while for the whole truth to emerge on this. Most of these incidents used as teachy moments by the left end up being wrong, hoaxes, tendentious, grossly exaggerated, or the victim of selective enforcement of laws that are never applied to lefties.

Remember when Trump was a Russian agent, and Michael Flynn was a liar?

Victoria Taft:

Former White House advisor Steve Bannon has been indicted by hyperpolitical, anti-Donald Trump prosecutors at the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Southern District of New York.

UPDATE: Geoff Earle:

Steve Bannon has been released on $5 million bail after appearing in court in handcuffs and pleading not guilty to being part of an alleged crowd funded border wall scam.

The former Donald Trump campaign strategist beamed with excitement as he emerged from Manhattan federal court on Thursday afternoon with his coronavirus mask in one hand and papers in the other.

As he approached a throng of reporters, Bannon said: ‘This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.’