The online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall” raised more than $25 million, prosecutors said, which the defendants said would be used on construction but was instead used for their own profit.
The arrest is the latest in a string of high-profile legal battles faced by members of Trump’s inner circle as the Republican runs for re-election in November.
Manhattan federal prosecutors said Bannon, the organization’s founder Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from We Build the Wall, which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.”
The initiative began in 2018 as a GoFundMe campaign to raise money organizers said would go towards the border wall Trump had promised during his 2016 campaign, which Bannon orchestrated.
Kolfage, a 38-year-old based in Florida, had vowed that all funds raised would go to the wall and he would not take compensation — but according to the indictment, he took more than $350,000 for his own use and worked to hide his actions.
– ‘Launder donations’ –
After calling the effort a “volunteer organization,” Bannon, 66, received over $1 million of the donations which he funneled through a non-profit he controlled, using some of it for his personal expenses, prosecutors said.
All four men are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.