2 Plead Guilty in ‘We Build the Wall’ Fraudulent Fundraiser

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The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors

The co-founder of the “We Build The Wall” project aimed at raising money for a border wall pleaded guilty Thursday to charges in a case that once included former President Donald Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon.

Brian Kolfage admitted that he had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollar while promising that all donations would go towards the wall. He pleaded guilty a month before the trial, which began in dramatic fashion in August 2020 when Bannon was taken from a yacht off the coast Connecticut and arrested on charges that he and three others had ripped off donors to pay for a southern border wall.

Trump pardoned Bannon just before he resigned last year. Bannon had pleaded no guilty to charges of taking over $1million and using some of that money to secretly fund Kolfage, a 39 year-old Air Force veteran who suffered both his legs in an Iraq mortar attack.

Andrew Badolato (57), codefendant financier, entered a guilty plea in the case Thursday during the same remotely held electronic hearing before U.S District Judge Analisa Torres, Manhattan. This meant that only one of four original defendants might be tried in May.

The government, Kolfage and Badolato reached plea agreements that stipulated that the defendants would not contest sentences within a set range of guidelines. Kolfage’s range was from four to five years. Badolato was in the middle of that range, at 3 1/2 to 4 years. September 6 was the date for sentencing.

Kolfage, Miramar Beach Florida, pleaded guilty in wire fraud conspiracy to tax charges originally brought in Florida. Badolato, Sarasota (Florida), pleaded guilty for wire fraud conspiracy. Kolfage would have faced upto 46 years imprisonment without the plea deal. Badolato could face a maximum sentence of 20 years prison.

The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors as they repeatedly pledged that every dollar would be used for the project.

Asked to describe his crimes by the judge, Kolfage said the group had originally intended for all the raised money to be used to build a wall, but it “soon became apparent” that the plan to donate the money to the U.S. government for the wall’s construction was not possible.

At that point, he said, they “induced donors to opt in to the new project” to build a border wall on private land by falsely representing that none of the donations would be spent on salaries or compensation to the fundraisers.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime,” he said.

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