Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both legs and part of his right arm during the war in Iraq, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for his role in defrauding donors in the “We Build The Wall”. Photo courtesy of the US Army.
April 26 (UPI) — A federal judge in New York has sentenced two former business associates of former White House official Steve Bannon to prison for defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors out of more than $25 million in a fundraising scheme known as “We Build The Wall.”
Brian Kolfage, 41, was sentenced to four years and 3 months in prison, and Andrew Badolato, 58, was sentenced to three years on Wednesday for his role in a scam to build former President Donald Trump’s promised wall along the southern border of the United States. Joined.
Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost both legs and part of his right arm during the war in Iraq, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as well as tax and wire fraud in Florida, where he lives.
“Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato abused the trust of donors for ‘We Build the Wall’ and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to line their own pockets,” US Attorney Damian Williams said Wednesday. “The defendants have now been held accountable for their criminal conduct.”
According to court documents, the “We Build The Wall” crowdfunding campaign began in December 2018 when Kolfage falsely assured the public that he “would not receive a dime in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised… were used for the execution of our mission and purpose.”
Despite repeated assurances, Kolfage, Badolato and Timothy Shea received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, according to court documents showing Kolfage received $350,000 for his personal use.
Bannon was also charged with taking $1 million from the campaign to cover personal expenses. In 2020, he pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in New York City before being pardoned by then-President Trump. He was charged with money laundering and conspiracy in September.
Kolfage, Badolato and Shea were accused of diverting payments from the “We Build The Wall” fund through bank accounts they controlled, using false invoices and contracts. Shea was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and is scheduled for sentencing in June.
In addition to his prison terms, Kolfage was ordered to forfeit nearly $18 million and pay restitution of nearly $3 million. Badolato was ordered to forfeit just under $1.5 million and pay the same amount in restitution. Both men will serve three years of supervised release after their prison terms.
US District Judge Analisa Torres, who also ordered the forfeiture of property in Sunland Park, NM, where part of the wall was built, said Wednesday that “this was no ordinary financial fraud,” because when victims donated to ” We Build The Wall, “They were expressing their views on a political issue that was important to them,” which “would certainly have a chilling effect” on political giving.
“The fraud perpetrated by Mr. Kolfage and Mr. Badolato went far beyond defrauding individual donors,” Judge Torres added. “They hurt all of us.”