Steve Bannon and Others Charged In Border Wall Funding Scheme

Steve Bannon, Brian Kolfage, an Iraq war vet who happens to be a triple amputee, a man named Timothy Shea from Castle Rock, Colorado and a man named Andrew Badolato have been charged in federal court in Manhattan with fraud offenses and money laundering for a scheme to raise funds for a privately built section of Trump's border wall, during which they collected millions of dollars.

“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. 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. ....

“The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds. 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.

This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist.”

The Indictment is here. [More...]

Here's more from the press release (linked above) on the alleged scam:

[They created an ]online crowdfunding campaign ultimately known as “We Build The Wall” that raised more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States. 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.”

But apparently, that wasn't true.

In particular, KOLFAGE covertly took for his personal use more than $350,000 in funds that donors had given to We Build the Wall, while BANNON, through a non-profit organization under his control (“Non-Profit-1”), 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. To conceal the payments to KOLFAGE from We Build the Wall, KOLFAGE, BANNON, BADOLATO, and SHEA devised a scheme to route those payments from We Build the Wall to KOLFAGE indirectly through Non-Profit-1 and a shell company under SHEA’s control, among other avenues. They did so by using fake invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to ensure, as KOLFAGE noted in a text message to BADOLATO, that his pay arrangement remained “confidential” and kept on a “need to know” basis.

The case was under investigation for a long time and those charged knew about it. Timothy Shea's wife gave this interview back in 2018. Shea is a realtor, and his FB page is here.

The fourth defendant, Badolato, appears to be a writer for right wing news sites who had previously worked with Bannon.

Trump (through his office) says he opposed the project.

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    The thing that jumped out at me (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by smott on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 12:29:23 PM EST
    Was,  by letting the Postal Svc perform this arrest (and I was completely clueless that they had investigative/arrest powers) , Audrey Strauss effectively cut Barr, the DOJ, and the corrupt NY FBI out of the process.

    I think that says....a lot.

    The Postal Inspection Service has (none / 0) (#20)
    by Peter G on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 12:50:31 PM EST
    well-defined jurisdiction over certain crimes involving the Post Office, and has had forever. One of those -- in addition to theft from the mail, obstruction of mail, assaults on postal workers, mailing non-mailable materials, etc. -- is mail fraud (executing a scheme to defraud by use of the mails), going back to the 1870s, in fact. (In the late 1800s and early 20th C., the notorious Postmaster General Comstock abused this power relentlessly to suppress "obscenity" (including birth control information and any mention of homosexuality) and "anarchist" literature (such as union publications).) When Congress expanded the mail fraud law in the 1950s to reach "wire fraud" as well (executing a scheme to defraud by use of interstate "wire" communications, such as radio, TV, telegraph, fax ... and now, email) the number of cases that the Postal Inspectors can investigate increased markedly. The FBI has concurrent jurisdiction over mail fraud and wire fraud, so it is possible that this case was steered to Postal to keep it away from the FBI, but also possible that the initial complaint came to them and it thus became their case.

    If Steve Bannon is (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by KeysDan on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 01:59:59 PM EST
    looking for a character witness, I doubt he will be able to enlist Pope Francis, whom he was working to undermine in concert with arch-conservative dissident members of the Vatican curia, particularly former St. Louis Archbishop, Cardinal Burke. Burke was subsequently demoted by Pope Francis.

    Bannon also attempted to fund-raise for the establishment of a right-wing Catholic Academy in Rome, to be called "Dignitatis Humanae Institute". This think tank idea initially had the support of Cardinal Burke, but Burke subsequently backed-off.

    Italy's Culture minister withdrew the lease for the government owned property to be used for the Institute, citing violations of various contract obligations.  And, the Honorary President of the Institute, Cardinal Renato Martino, a conservative gadfly in the Curia, resigned.

    There is almost (none / 0) (#22)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 02:37:26 PM EST
    any evil that Bannon is not involved in it seems.

    Hang on, because this story gets even better. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat Aug 22, 2020 at 04:28:55 AM EST
    Steven Bannon was arrested Thursday morning by U.S. Postal Service agents while he was a guest on board a mega-yacht owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who's also wanted by authorities in Beijing on charges of fraud, blackmail and bribery.

    And get a load of that mega-yacht! I do believe this is the part of the movie where SPECTRE's diabolical mastermind fully discloses to a momentarily captive James Bond his sinister organization's nefarious scheme to bring western civilization to its knees, just prior to attempting -- and failing -- to kill 007 and Miss Solitaire in the most fiendish way possible.


    You have to wonder (none / 0) (#27)
    by smott on Sat Aug 22, 2020 at 12:38:17 PM EST
    How much Olde Ocelot, meth and porn is on board that yacht lol....

    Sounds pretty dam guilty to me. (none / 0) (#1)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 03:18:35 PM EST

    Everybody "sounds ... guilty" when (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 07:33:44 PM EST
    all you know is what you read in the prosecutors' press release and in the indictment. That's why G*d created defense lawyers, and why the Framers of the Constitution guaranteed our existence and critical role in every case. Shame on you, SUO.

    Yes. But commentators who know (none / 0) (#12)
    by Towanda on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 09:52:37 PM EST
    how it works from the inside and have looked at the indictment specifying the evidence say it's a solid case.  I hope so.

    An indictment is merely (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 11:18:47 PM EST
    a charge, it is not evidence. Those commentators have not seen the discovery (investigative reports, results of electronic surveillance (emails), wiretaps, etc. Guilt should be determined in a courtroom after a fair trial or plea of guilty -- not on TV or social media. And particularly not on Talkleft.

    Ya know (none / 0) (#17)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 11:45:34 AM EST
    we've seen some barn-burners over the years here on TL. To the point where my spidey senses start questioning things very early on.

    Especially those accusations that really penetrate to our deepest and darkest fears and expose "us" as an abhorrent and appalling human race.

    Some examples of these TL barn-burners are when a young woman accuses a college sport team of viciously gang raping her. Another would be when a TV actor claims he was mock-hanged by racists on the streets of Chicago at 2:30AM on a single-digit temperature winter night. Or when an army refrigerator tech who was never deployed outside the US claims that he was spit on and called a baby-killer by a hippy chick and her boyfriend when he returned from deployment. (And, chuckling, admits he beat the boyfriend up.)

    So, yeah, when such outrageous claims are made, I, now, tend to sit back and wait for it to all play out.

    This, however, is a much different situation.

    The charge as I understand it is that the dudes that ran the charitable organization said that they were volunteers and that all the money donated would go to the cause, and that, ultimately, a large amount of the donated money did not go to the cause but rather to the personal uses of some the dudes who said they were volunteers.

    Their volunteer claim and claim that all the donated money would go to the cause seems pretty easy to verify. My expectation is that accounting for where the donated money actually ended up is pretty easy to verify as well.


    There seem (none / 0) (#2)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 04:57:52 PM EST
    to be unconfirmed reports that Curt Schilling has been arrested too.

    No, Curt Schilling wasn't arrested (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 05:53:20 PM EST
    No, Curt Schilling wasn't arrested in the `Build the Wall' fundraising scam

    Says Daily Dot, whoever that may be.


    No Schilling Arrest (none / 0) (#6)
    by CoralGables on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 08:08:58 PM EST
    But Schilling, Kris Kobach, David Clarke and Erik Prince sit on the board of "Build The Wall" along with Bannon and Kolfage. There is a lot of closeness to Trump in that group.

    Trump(s) (none / 0) (#7)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 08:26:08 PM EST
    I am looking forward to seeing Kobach (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peter G on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 09:12:27 PM EST
    take the Fifth. Which of course is his right. I wonder whether he was called to testify before the grand jury, and if so, how that went.

    I'm looking forward (none / 0) (#18)
    by smott on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 12:27:40 PM EST
    To Bannon flipping on EVERYbody so fast it will make our heads spin.

    Of all of them, it's Erik Prince I want in jail.


    Oh, please (none / 0) (#11)
    by Towanda on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 09:50:12 PM EST
    arrest Sheriff Clarke. The fake Dem who did so much damage in my hometown.

    Even if (none / 0) (#16)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 05:59:23 AM EST
    he's not arrested he's been exposed as a scam artist now and I can tell everyone that posts his memes on Facebook that.

    As someone who has sat (and sits) on (none / 0) (#23)
    by Peter G on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 03:53:08 PM EST
    nonprofit boards of directors, I am genuinely interested in how much these directors (including Kobach as "counsel") knew, how much they actually governed and supervised the executive director, as was their responsibility, and how much they were just "used" for the value of their names in right-wing circles. And whether they were paid for their "service" on the board (i.e., for the use of their names and reputations).

    When I search for Tim Shea, (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jack E Lope on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 07:17:26 PM EST
    I see that Timothy J. Shea is Acting Director of DEA, and Timothy Shea of Colorado was arrested in connection with this case.

    The scary part was that the predictive search choices offered me, "Timothy Shea dies in boating accident".

    The rubes who donated to the bogus (none / 0) (#8)
    by desertswine on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 09:08:59 PM EST
    Build the Wall fund must be surprised to find out that they've actually been donating to boob jobs and Bannon's yachting vacations.  

    The rubes (none / 0) (#10)
    by MO Blue on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 09:33:26 PM EST
    will find a way to turn the whole thing into some kind of deep state conspiracy rather than admit that they paid for boob jobs and Bannon's yachting vacations.

    Yes, (none / 0) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Thu Aug 20, 2020 at 10:26:54 PM EST
    and will contribute to Bannon's defense fund, probably.  

    You're on it (none / 0) (#15)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Aug 21, 2020 at 05:58:05 AM EST
    Lou Dobbs has already gone there because the postal service is the one that arrested Bannon.

    Lou Dobbs is ... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat Aug 22, 2020 at 04:33:08 AM EST
    ... only one tinfoil hat away from a rubber room.

    Probably why he got the job (none / 0) (#26)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat Aug 22, 2020 at 09:29:29 AM EST
    Lou Dobbs Was Shadow Chief of Staff

    August 22, 2020 at 7:20 am EDT By Taegan Goddard 43 Comments

    Former DHS official Miles Taylor told CNN that Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbsnhad influence inside the White House.

    Said Taylor: "The president would call us and he would say -- and pardon my language -- he would say, `Why the hell didn't you watch Lou Dobbs last night? You need to listen to Lou. What Lou says is what I want to do."

    He added: "So if Lou Dobbs peddled a conspiracy theory on late-night television or made an erroneous claim about what should be done either at the border or with some law enforcement operation, the president wanted us to be tuning in every night."