Do you remember that fundraiser “We Build The Wall” that was going around?
Well, unfortunately, Steve Bannon used the fundraiser for his own selfish gain.
The “We Build the Wall” campaign was a fundraiser to help the federal government to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The only problem is Steve Bannon used the donations in a fraudulent manner.
The former adviser to President Trump was arrested Thursday because he allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Justice Department recently announced.
Steve Bannon has been arrested and charged along with three other men for swindling donors who supported a private effort to build sections of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border https://t.co/R4cW2eL1DV
— POLITICO (@politico) August 20, 2020
After his former senior adviser Steve Bannon was arrested this morning for allegedly swindling donors on a border wall project run by the non-profit group "We Build the Wall," President Trump distanced himself saying it was "inappropriate" https://t.co/KZv4eDHITi pic.twitter.com/1esnj4TH52
— POLITICO (@politico) August 20, 2020
"Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's former campaign adviser, and three others with defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a border wall fundraising campaign." https://t.co/qnIYNd318A
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 20, 2020
Fox News had this to say about Steve Bannon’s arrest:
Steve Bannon, a former adviser to President Trump, was among four suspects arrested Thursday and indicted in connection with an online fundraising campaign that allegedly defrauded donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Justice Department announced.
According to the indictment, Bannon and co-defendant Brian Kolfage told the public that they were a “volunteer organization” and that 100% of the money raised would go toward their stated goal, which was to raise money for the federal government to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Those representations were false,” the indictment said. Prosecutors claim that Kolfage, Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea took money for themselves as the campaign raised upward of $25 million. The indictment alleges that Bannon received more than $1 million through a nonprofit that he then used for personal expenses and to pay Kolfage.
Prosecutors say Bannon and the others used the nonprofit and a shell company to hide the payments to Kolfage “by using fake invoices and sham ‘vendor’ arrangements,” as well as other means of keeping the payments quiet. The indictment stated that in order to raise funds, Kolfage and Bannon “repeatedly and falsely” told the public that Kolfage would “not take a penny” in compensation.
According to prosecutors, Kolfage instructed payments to be made out to his spouse, and this was reflected in a 1099 form the non-profit issued, saying the payment was for “media.”
The campaign’s website said that all of the money raised would go to the government for building the wall, and that if they did not meet their fundraising target, they would “refund every single penny,” according to the indictment.
Within a week of Kolfage launching the campaign in December 2018, they raised roughly $17 million, prosecutors said. Due to concerns over where the money was going, the crowdfunding platform told Kolfage to identify a nonprofit that the money would go to or the funds would be returned. At that point, prosecutors said, Bannon and Badolato worked on creating the nonprofit We Build the Wall Inc.
The stated goal was then changed to using the money to privately construct the wall, and past donors had to agree to have their money used for that purpose. They were assured that all of the money would go to wall construction, and not to Kolfage or the organization’s board, the indictment said.
When Kolfage, Bannon, and Badolato learned in the fall of 2019 that the endeavor was under federal investigation, they allegedly “took additional steps to conceal the fraudulent scheme,” the indictment said. This allegedly included using encrypted messaging applications, putting a stop to Kolfage’s salary payments, and removing text from the website saying that Kolfage would not be compensated while adding a notification that he would begin collecting a salary in January 2020.
President Trump says he 'knows nothing about it' and was 'not involved in the project'.
Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist of Donald Trump, has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud over Mexico wall project.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 20, 2020
CBS News had this to say about Steve Bannon’s arrest:
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday on charges that he and three others ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme to build a southern border wall, making him the latest in a long list of Trump associates to be indicted or charged.
The “We Build The Wall” fundraiser was headed by men who pushed their close ties to President Trump, giving their effort a legitimacy that helped them raise more than $25 million. They touted their effort to help the president realize his vision of a “big beautiful” border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially after his effort to redirect millions in government funds, was held up through lawsuits.
But according to the criminal charges unsealed Thursday, very little of the wall was actually constructed. Instead, the money lined the pockets of some of those involved. Bannon, who served in Trump’s 2016 campaign and White House, received over $1 million himself, using some to secretly pay co-defendant, Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars of Bannon’s personal expenses.
According to the indictment, Bannon promised that 100% of the donated money would be used for the project, but the defendants collectively used hundreds of thousands of dollars in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.
They faked invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to hide what was really happening, according to the indictment. “All money donated to the ‘We Build the Wall’ campaign goes directly to wall!!! Not anyone’s pocket,” the lawsuit said.
Bannon is among a stunning list of former Trump associates who have found themselves under indictment or in jail, including his former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
An immigration plan unveiled by Trump last year had included a proposal to allow public donations to pay for his long-promised southern border wall. At that point, the GoFundMe campaign launched by war veteran Brian Kolfage had raised more than $20 million for wall construction.
But Trump later denounced the project publicly, tweeting last month that “I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles,” he said.
It’s a shame that Bannon would use his political platform for his own gain.
Hopefully, Trump won’t be falsely attacked by the media for another man’s mistake which Trump knew nothing about.