Steve Bannon charged with money laundering, conspiracy in ‘We Build the Wall’ fundraising fraud case

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Thursday, 8 Sep 2022 22:09 0 27 Admin

The former Trump strategist pleaded not guilty after being arraigned on the six-count indictment Thursday afternoon.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was charged Thursday in New York with defrauding donors who were giving money to build a wall at the southern U.S. border.

Bannon, 68, was indicted on charges including money laundering, scheming to defraud, and conspiracy in what prosecutors described as a year-long scheme. He pleaded not guilty during a brief arraignment before acting Justice Juan Merchan, and agreed to surrender his passports as a condition of his bail.

“He’s not going anywhere. He intends to fight these charges all the way,” Bannon’s attorney David Schoen told the judge.

The six-count indictment also names the group WeBuildTheWall.Inc, which it says worked with Bannon on the scheme in 2019. Bannon was chair of the “advisory board” for the group, which prosecutors say duped thousands of donors by maintaining that all the money raised would go to building a wall along the southern border and not to the people running the effort.

The group’s president, Brian Kolfage, who is left unnamed in the indictment, pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the scheme, the filing alleges. Some of the money was routed to him by Bannon, who had money from the campaign transferred to a nonprofit group under Bannon’s control and then used that cash to pay Kolfage $140,000, the indictment alleges.

Prosecutors allege that Bannon was well aware the group was publicizing that Kolfage was telling donors “I’m taking zero dollars of a salary, no compensation,” and that Bannon had echoed those claims himself.

In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Bannon “acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country — including hundreds of Manhattan residents.”

“It is a crime to turn a profit by lying to donors, and in New York, you will be held accountable,” Bragg said. He later said at a press conference that if convicted, Bannon faces a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office teamed up with the district attorney in the probe, said Bannon “took advantage of his donors’ political views to secure millions of dollars which he then misappropriated” and “lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends.”

Bannon was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Thursday afternoon.

In a statement to NBC News on Tuesday, Bannon said, “This is nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system.”

Bannon was hit with charges related to the same scheme by federal prosecutors in August 2020. He pleaded not guilty and was later pardoned by then-President Donald Trump”

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