Bannon's Co-Founder Pleads Guilty in 'Build the Wall' Scam

Brian Kolfage admits to taking hundreds of thousands in donors' money
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2020 10:30 AM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2022 7:25 PM CDT
Steve Bannon Joked About Taking Money From Donors
Steve Bannon jokes with Brian Kolfage in a Wall-a-Thon to raise funds for We Build the Wall.   (YouTube)

(Newser) Update: The co-founder of the project to raise money for a border wall pleaded guilty Thursday in a case that once included Steve Bannon, who was an adviser to former President Donald Trump. Brian Kolfage admitted to pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the AP reports, while promising that all donations would go to the wall. Kolfage's plea deal specifies that he won't challenge his sentence, scheduled to be decided Sept. 6, as long as it's four to five years in prison. "I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime," he told the judge Thursday in New York. Trump issued Bannon a pardon just before leaving office. Our story from August 2020 follows:

"Folks, this really happened." So begins a now-viral tweet that includes footage of Steve Bannon joking about stealing money from We Build the Wall—the very thing he's accused of doing. Media Matters reports that Bannon and Brian Kolfage—the founder of the crowdfunding campaign to build a border wall—are seen in the clip promoting a Wall-a-Thon to raise money for the cause. "Welcome back, this is Stephen K. Bannon and we're off the coast of Saint-Tropez in Southern France in the Mediterranean on a million-dollar yacht. Brian Kolfage, he took all that money from Build the Wall," says Bannon. "No, we're actually in Sunland Park, New Mexico."

Mashable notes that Bannon was arrested Thursday on the deck of a $35 million yacht as he sipped coffee and read a book—though the yacht was off the coast of Connecticut, not Saint-Tropez. In a Justice Department statement, Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett is quoted as saying the defendants not only lied "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." Bannon and Kolfage were charged along with two other men, Timothy Shea and Andrew Badolato. (See what President Trump had to say.)

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