National Review’s Zachary Evans has reported on the Justice Department’s indictment of former Trump campaign manager and White House adviser Steve Bannon, along with three codefendants — Brian Kolfage, an Air Force vet who became a triple-amput
ee serving in the Iraq War; Andrew Badolato, a longtime Bannon associate; and Timothy Shea, who helped Kolfage establish “We Build the Wall,” the campaign said to be at the center of the alleged fraud scheme.
The indictment unsealed Thursday elucidates that a great deal of investigative scutwork went into this case, chiefly by the U.S. postal inspectors and prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
Indeed, the investigation was plainly in gear last autumn: The indictment says that in October 2019, the defendants were tipped off by a financial institution that they were under investigation.
STEVE BANNON PLEADS NOT GUILTY AFTER INDICTMENT IN ‘WE BUILD THE WALL’ CASE
The wire-fraud and money-laundering charges were a long time coming, and the postal inspectors appear to have meticulously traced the proceeds through numerous bank accounts, real-estate parcels, and at least one vehicle. These are itemized in the indictment’s forfeiture allegations, which are in addition to the significant imprisonment and staggering fines that could result in the event of convictions.
The scheme is big but not complicated. According to the indictment, in late 2018, Kolfage, with the help of Shea and others, established a campaign originally called “We the People Build the Wall” through GoFundMe (described in the indictment as the “Crowdfunding Website”).
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The concept was that private citizens would contribute money to be donated to the government for the construction of a wall on the southern border. The campaign was instantly successful as a fundraising vehicle, quickly racking up $17 million in commitments, and ultimately $25 million.
For the money to be released, GoFundMe required an entity into which it could be transferred, as well as assurances that the funds would be dedicated to the stated purpose of the campaign. To help him, Kolfage brought Bannon and Badolato (described in the indictment as “an entrepreneur and venture capitalist” — though less flattering descriptions evidently abound).
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The latter pair took over the day-to-day organization and operations of the campaign, establishing a new non-profit (under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax laws) called “We Build the Wall Inc.”
The organization’s website provides information about the We Build the Wall’s advisory board, which includes, among other well-known figures, former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach as general counsel. There is no suggestion in the indictment that any of these other people is complicit in the alleged fraud scheme.
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