Steve Bannon, who previously served as White House Chief Strategist for Trump and executive chair for Breitbart, has been taken into custody and charged with defrauding those who donated to an online fundraiser dubbed "We Build the Wall."
The campaign ultimately raised more than $25 million, despite "repeatedly and falsely" claiming to the public that Brian Kolfage—alongside whom Bannon and others have been alleged to have orchestrated the scheme—did not take a salary. Bannon, notably, also publicly referred to the effort as a "volunteer organization" despite that apparently not being the case at all.
"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," Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement on Thursday.
Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), added that the "true use" of the money given to the border wall scheme was "misrepresented" to donors and the general public.
"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," Bartlett said. "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 unsealed indictment states that—starting in approximately December 2018—Brian Kolfage, Steve Bannon, Andrew Badolato, Timothy Shea, and others began putting together the defrauding scheme by way of donors numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Despite that aforementioned attempt at presenting itself as some sort of volunteer organization, all four men are said to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. Bannon, for example, allegedly received $1 million from We Build the Wall through a non-profit he controlled.
All four men have now been charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as well as one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The maximum for each is a penalty of 20 years behind bars.
The inspector general for the Defense Department is also investigating the Trump administration's $400 million contract to Fisher Sand & Gravel, a North Dakota company that was hired by We Build the Wall, the New York Times reports.
It's also worth pointing out that former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling sits on the advisory board of the We Build the Wall organization. Despite reports that he was arrested, Yahoo! Sports reports that Schilling was not charged.