Steve Bannon Associate Is Facing More Charges Over Border Wall Crowdfunding Campaign
Brian Kolfage, who was indicted last year along with Trump advisor Steve Bannon for allegedly running a fraudulent effort to raise cash for a border wall, was hit Thursday with new tax fraud charges by a federal grand jury in Florida.
Construction crews install new border wall sections seen from Tijuana, Mexico.
Last year, prosecutors filed fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges against Kolfage, Bannon and several others who allegedly took money from We Build The Wall, a group that raised over $25 million by vowing to pay for a wall on the southern border.
Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran, now stands accused of failing to tell the IRS about the money he drew from We Build The Wall and other groups in 2019, netting additional charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, according to a press release from federal prosecutors.
Bannon was given a pardon by President Donald Trump less than 12 hours before leaving office and was removed as a defendant from last year’s case, but Kolfage and the other We Build The Wall founders were not pardoned despite facing the same charges.
An attorney representing Kolfage — who pleaded not guilty on last year’s charges — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
$350,000. That’s how much money Kolfage allegedly took from We Build The Wall, federal prosecutors said last August, compared to over $1 million taken by Bannon.
Prosecutors accused We Build The Wall’s founders of deceiving their donors by using the group to enrich themselves, using donations to pay for their own travel and other personal bills despite claiming to be a volunteer-run organization. They also allegedly created fake invoices in an effort to keep their money-funnelling scheme secret.
“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,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said last August.
Bannon framed We Build The Wall as a way of helping Trump build a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border, a key campaign promise for the former president. However, Trump didn’t seem to appreciate Bannon’s assistance: He told reporters last year the private wall-building effort was “inappropriate” and “done for showboating reasons.”
What To Watch For
Bannon is still facing an investigation by New York state prosecutors into his role in the wall-building scheme, multiple news outlets reported earlier this year. Bannon hasn’t been charged with a crime in New York State, but he’s not immune to state charges because presidential pardoning power only covers federal matters.
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