One of President Trump's former top political advisers was arrested in connection with a crowdfunding program to build a U.S. border wall. The prosecution overturned the charges on Thursday. Steve Bannon is one of four people named in the indictment now charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their work on a campaign called “We Build the Wall”.
We Build the Wall began in late 2018 as a GoFundMe campaign launched by U.S. Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage. The unfortunate effort to privately fund a border wall with Mexico quickly drew many high profile Trump allies, including Bannon, the Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, and Defense firm Erik Prince and brother by Minister of Education Betsy DeVos.
While those names don't appear on the indictment, Bannon and Kolfage are now on the hook for what happened to the more than $ 25 million raised by the campaign. The campaign website and team page will remain online.
"The defendants have allegedly defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors and used their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars on the false pretext that all of that money was being spent on construction," said acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
“While the defendants repeatedly affirmed that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not receive a dime, the defendants secretly planned to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage to fund his lavish lifestyle. ”
The indictment details how Bannon and the other men allegedly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in portraying the "We're Building the Wall" campaign as a voluntary action that would in no way benefit them. Kolfage made repeated claims that he "would not take a dime in salary or compensation".
Bannon reportedly withdrew more than $ 1 million from the $ 25 million the program raised and used hundreds of thousands for personal use. Kolfage is alleged to have used $ 350,000 from the campaign on his own personal expenses. The men tried to hide their payouts through a shell not-for-profit company and a series of fake invoices and fake supplier relationships.
On time, the US Attorney's Office named the United States Postal Inspection Service, the USPS law enforcement agency, a key player in the investigation.
"We thank USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case and we continue to strive to root out and prosecute fraud wherever we find it," said Strauss.