2 men sentenced to years in prison for fraudulent border wall fundraiser
▶ Watch Video: Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to face new charges in New York state
A federal judge in New York on Wednesday sentenced two former business associates of ex-White House official Steve Bannon to several years in prison for their roles in an infamous and fraudulent fundraiser to build barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration.
The two men, Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, previously pleaded guilty to several federal crimes related to siphoning funds from the online fundraising scheme known as “We Build The Wall,” which raised more than $25 million from tens of thousands of private donors.
Kolfage, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax crimes, was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison. According to the Justice Department, Klofage diverted $350,000 in donations for his own personal use, including to purchase an SUV and a cosmetic surgery.
Badolato, who pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud, received a 3-year prison sentence. Prosecutors said he also took hundreds of thousands of dollars in “We Build The Wall” donations for personal use.
In addition to the prison sentences, Kolfage was ordered to forfeit $17.9 million and pay $2.9 million in restitution. Badalato was ordered to turn over $1.4 million and pay restitution of the same amount.
During the sentencing, Judge Analisa Torres said Kolfage and Badolato’s scheme “was no ordinary financial fraud,” noting that it could have a “chilling effect” on political fundraising efforts, the Justice Department said in a release.
According to prosecutors, Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost limbs during the war in Iraq, worked with Badolato, Bannon and others to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars in private donations to bank accounts and entities they oversaw, despite a public commitment to only use the money to build border barriers.
Bannon, who served as former President Donald Trump’s chief White House strategist, was arrested in 2020 on federal charges over his role in the “We Build The Wall” fundraiser. Mr. Trump pardoned Bannon in one of his last acts before leaving office.
However, Bannon is still awaiting a trial on similar state charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. A presidential pardon does not offer immunity from state charges.
A third individual involved in the “We Build The Wall” scheme, Tim Shea, was convicted of wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice, last year. He’s set to be sentenced later this year.