The Former Donald Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, has been arrested and charged with fraud due to a fundraising campaign to build a border wall between the US and Mexico
Steve Bannon, as well as three others defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors in connection to the “We Build the Wall” campaign, which the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said raised $25m (£19m).
Mr Bannon received over $1m, at least some of which he used to cover personal expenses, the Department of Justice said. Bannon is due to appear in court later.
The “We build the wall” campaign had pledged to utilise donations to build segments of the border wall between the US and Mexico, of which the construction was a key Trump promise during his 2016 presidential election campaign on private land.
But the Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Audrey Strauss, said that 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”.
Bannon had received over $1m through a non-profit organisation that he controlled, at least some of which he used to cover “hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon’s personal expenses”, according to the DoJ.
Meanwhile, Mr Kolfage, the founder of the “We Build the Wall” campaign, 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.
Philip R Bartlett the SDNY Inspector-in-Charge has said that 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.
This comes after Universities have been put into admissions “chaos” after the government’s U-turn last week on how A-level exams were graded in England, with some institutions already having reached capacity for new first-year students.
Steve Bannon and the three others launched the campaign in December 2018, the Department of Justice said, and during the scheme, Mr Kolfage said that all of the money donated would go towards the construction of the border wall while Bannon said publicly that, “We’re a volunteer organisation”.
All four of the defendants have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of these charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Mr Bannon, who is 66, will be appearing in court in the SDNY and Mr Badolato and Mr Kolfage will appear in separate courts in Florida and Mr Shea will appear in Colorado.