BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump’s former aide Steven Bannon is arrested and INDICTED over ‘ripping off $25 million crowd-funded border wall scheme to pay for his and its co-founders’ lavish lifestyles of boats and private jets’ – and could face 40 YEARS in prison
Former Donald Trump campaign strategist was arrested Thursday and charged with defrauding hundreds of people as part of a group the promised to use private money to build a section of border wall, a signature issue of the president.
Bannon, who helped steer Trump’s campaign then joined him in the White House in 2017 as chief strategist only to be forced out, is accused of pocketing $1 million in the alleged scheme.
The group’s founder, Brian Kolfage of Florida, is also accused of fraudulently pocketing funds.
The stunning indictment of a top former Trump advisor comes on Day Four of the Democratic convention, when Joe Biden is set to speak.
The group promised donors it was a volunteer effort that would direct all funds toward a crash effort to construct wall without government red tape. In reality, say federal prosecutors in New York, the group’s founders siphoned off funds for themselves.
‘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,’ according to the indictment unsealed in the Southern District of New York Thursday morning.
In handcuffs: Steve Bannon was arrested and was due to be taken to federal court in Manhattan to face a judge on fraud charges
How it was marketed: This was the GoFundMe originally set up to ‘privately fund’ a border wall
‘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,’ according to the indictment.
‘In particular, to induce donors to donate to the campaign, KOLFAGE repeatedly and falsely assured the public that he would ‘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’ because, as BANNON publicly stated, ‘we’re a volunteer organization.’
The indictment states that Kolfage ‘covertly took for his personal use more than $350,000 in funds that donors had given to We Build the Wall’ through a non-profit he controlled.
It states that Bannon, who became wealthy through film investments, consulting, and formerly running the conservative Breitbart website, ‘received over $1 million from We Build the Wall, at least some of which BANNON used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in BANNON’s personal expenses.’
Said Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett: ‘As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth.’
The indictment says the alleged fraudsters used a non-profit and a shell company controlled by Kolfage.
They used fake invoices, sham vendors as part of the effort, keeping the system ‘confidential’ and ‘need to know,’ according to the indictment, which quotes from a Kolfage email.
Also indicted are Andrew Badolato of Florida and Timothy Shea of Colorado.
According to financial disclosures when he joined the White House staff, Bannon was worth between $10 million and $48 million in 2017, with most of the value in his consulting firm, Bannon Strategic Advisors.
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