Former White House senior adviser Stephen Bannon and three others were arrested and charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to a fundraising campaign for a private border wall, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York said Thursday, CNN reports.
The indictment alleges that Bannon —who served as chief executive of the Trump campaign in 2016— along with Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea defrauded donors of the online crowdfunding campaign known as We Build the Wall, which raised more than $25 million.
“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 U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said.
According to the indictment, Kolfage launched We Build the Wall on GoFundMe in late 2018, quickly raising more than $20 million, before the site threatened to remove his page unless he identified a valid recipient of the funds.
Then, Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato formed a nonprofit called “We Build the Wall, Inc.” to receive the GoFundMe money.
Despite Kolfage’s promises that he wouldn’t be taking a salary, federal prosecutors alleged that the group of defendants schemed to pass along hundreds of thousands of dollars to him to help “fund his lavish lifestyle.”
The four defendants are expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon. The four men are facing charges including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
When asked for comment by a pool reporter on Thursday, a White House spokesperson said, “I refer you to DOJ, this is not a White House matter.”