Since its launch in 2018, the We Build the Wall campaign attracted donations from diehard Trump supporters desperate to see Trump’s signature campaign promise to completion. The campaign raised over $25 million with a promise that “100% of the funds raised… will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose.” That’s not quite what happened, however, and some of the campaign’s founders finally admitted their fraud to a judge on Thursday.
The crackdown began in August 2020, when New York federal prosecutors charged Steve Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea with fraud. Bannon allegedly used his non-profit to quietly siphon over $1 million to pay Kolfage and cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon’s own personal expenses. According to court documents, Kolfage allegedly spent more than $350,000 on his own personal expenses, from cosmetic surgery and jewelry to a luxury SUV and a golf cart.
After being arrested on a yacht, Bannon pleaded not guilty before receiving a pardon from Trump. However, Bannon is now under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney for possible state law violations. For a while, Kolfage also insisted he was innocent, accusing prosecutors of targeting him because he posed a “major threat to the globalist agenda to have mass migration into the U.S.” Now, Kolfage has confessed to all.
“I induced donors to opt to the new project in part through the misrepresentation that I would not profit from We Build the Wall or take a salary or compensation,” Kolfage admitted in a statement to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres. “I knowingly and willingly conspired to receive money from the donations.”
In connection with his plea, Kolfage agreed to forfeit over $17.8 million and pay over $140,000 in back taxes as well as between $20,000 and $200,000 in fines, and to serve 51 to 63 months in prison (rather than face up to 46 years). Badolato also pleaded guilty, admitting, “I knew this was wrong and I’m terribly, terribly sorry for what I did, and I humbly beg the court for mercy.” Shea, who recently switched his plea back to not guilty, will face trial next month unless he switches yet again. And so, another Trump wall comes tumbling down.