A judge reminded everyone that Steve Bannon was accused of taking $1 million from a border wall fundraising scheme while approving Trump’s pardon

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Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon wearing his customary two shirts as he exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City.

  • A judge dismissed an indictment against Steve Bannon months after former President Trump pardoned him.
  • The judge’s written order took pains to detail the allegations against Bannon, however.
  • Prosecutors say he took more than $1 million from a border wall fundraising scheme.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed an indictment against Steve Bannon, formally approving former president Donald Trump’s pardon of his onetime campaign strategist – and noted in the court order that Bannon allegedly took more than $1 million from people who thought they were donating to Trump’s US-Mexico border wall.

“By October 2019 … Bannon and the other defendants received hundreds of thousands of dollars each, which they used on personal expenses such as travel, hotels, and personal credit card debt,” Judge Analisa Torres wrote in her order.

The order follows months of legal wrangling after Trump pardoned Bannon, his former chief White House strategist and top 2016 campaign official, shortly before he left office.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York brought wire fraud and money laundering charges against Bannon in August 2020, alleging he participated in a scheme that funneled money from the “We Build a Wall” fundraiser to enrich himself.

The fundraiser, launched during a 2018 government shutdown, ultimately brought in $25 million that was supposed to go toward building a US-Mexico border wall.

Prosecutors also charged Trump supporters Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea, all of whom Trump did not pardon and may still go to trial.

In a separate case, federal prosecutors in Florida filed an indictment against Kolfage alleging he broke tax laws in taking money from the wall scheme.

The judge reiterated the allegations against Bannon in her order

In her written order, Torres dismissed the indictment against Bannon, but took pains to detail the role prosecutors said he played in the scheme in a lengthy “background” section.

“Unbeknownst to donors, within days of the launch of We Build the Wall, Bannon, Kolfage, and Badolato, among others, agreed that Kolfage would be paid ‘$100k upfront [and] then 20 [per] month,'” Torres wrote, citing the original indictment. “In one of a variety of ways, Bannon agreed to pass payments from We Build the Wall to Kolfage through a nonprofit Bannon controlled … In making this agreement, Bannon made clear that there would be ‘no deals [he did]n’t approve.'”

Bannon previously denied all the charges against him, as have Kolfage, Badolato, and Shea.

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Steve Bannon and then-President Donald Trump at the White House in 2017.

Torres’ order points out that Bannon took more than $1 million from the “We Build a Wall” organization after he asked Kolfage to send him money – and then used the money for personal expenses.

“Bannon, apart from using these funds to pay Kolfage’s secret salary, used ‘a substantial portion . . . for personal uses and expenses unrelated to We Build the Wall,'” the judge wrote.

After Trump’s pardon, prosecutors asked Torres to remove Bannon from the case rather than dismissing the indictment entirely. Torres, siding with Bannon’s attorney, ruled that legal precedent required her to dismiss the indictment.

“It is not the practice of this district to remove a defendant from the docket without a resolution of the indictment,” Torres wrote.

“The judge clearly reached the right result,” Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, said in a statement to the Washington Post. “An unconditional pardon should always result in the dismissal of the indictment. Finality should result in finality.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is also investigating Bannon’s finances as part of a fraud investigation into “We Build a Wall,” according to CNN. Trump’s pardon covers only federal crimes, and would not apply to state-level charges that the DA’s office could bring.

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The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall can’t use the money for his legal defense, a judge ruled

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Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • A “We Build a Wall” co-founder can’t use the money he raised to pay for his legal defense, a judge ruled.
  • Prosecutors say Brian Kolfage used money intended for a US-Mexico border wall to enrich himself.
  • On Thursday, Kolfage was hit with a separate indictment alleging he underpaid his taxes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“We Build a Wall” co-founder Brian Kolfage cannot use the funds he purportedly raised for a US-Mexico border wall in order to fund his legal defense in a criminal fraud case, a federal judge said Thursday in a ruling reviewed by Insider.

Kolfage has been under indictment since August 2020 for charges stemming from an alleged scheme related to a crowdfunding campaign for a wall at the US-Mexico border, a policy priority of former President Donald Trump.

In December 2018, during a government shutdown, Kolfage – a right-wing media figure who lost several limbs while serving in the Iraq War – tried to raise $1 billion to purportedly build the wall himself.

He ultimately raised around $25 million for the project, called “We Build a Wall.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from that sum to enrich himself and spend on things like a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, home renovations, and credit-card debt.

Prosecutors also charged Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chairman and top White House policy adviser, in the crowdfunding scheme, though Trump pardoned him on his last day in office. Trump did not pardon Kolfage or Andrew Babolat and Timothy Shea, two other alleged co-conspirators.

Shortly after the charges were filed in August, the judge overseeing the case, Analisa Torres, granted prosecutors’ request to freeze the funds Kolfage raised as part of a restraining order, court filings show. But Kolfage argued he needs the funds to pay an insurance policy he took out for “We Build a Wall” that would fund his legal defense.

In the new ruling, Torres, citing legal precedents, wrote that Kolfage’s constitutional right to counsel doesn’t mean she needs to unfreeze the funds so that Kolfage can pay his preferred lawyer.

“So long as a court finds probable cause that the restrained assets are forfeitable, a defendant is not entitled to modification of the restraining order to allow him to access funds to pay for an attorney,” Torres wrote.

Torres left a door open for Kolfage to overturn the restraining order and gain access to the funds. She said that he can still request a hearing to challenge the underlying probable cause that led to the restraining order, but he must prove he needs the funds to pay for his defense in order to request that hearing.

A separate indictment from federal prosecutors in Florida unsealed Thursday accused Kolfage of tax crimes. Prosecutors said that while Kolfage took hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself from “We Build a Wall,” he listed his income for 2019 at just $63,574.

Steinberg, the attorney Kolfage says he’s struggling to pay, was dismissive of the new federal charges in Florida.

“Unlike the government, we are not going to hold a press conference to celebrate the persecution of a war hero,” he told Insider.

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The guy who crowdfunded $25 million to build Trump’s border wall just got indicted on tax fraud charges

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Brian Kolfage in 2014.

  • Brian Kolfage, who founded “We Build the Wall,” with Steve Bannon, was indicted in a new tax case.
  • A New York grand jury separately found the crowdfunding effort to be fraudulent in August 2020.
  • Donald Trump pardoned Bannon before he left office, but didn’t pardon Kolfage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Brian Kolfage – the cofounder of a failed crowdfunding effort to build a wall along the US-Mexico border with Steve Bannon – is facing a new tax case after being indicted on federal fraud charges last year.

Newly unsealed court documents show that a federal grand jury in Florida indicted Kolfage on accusations of fraud and filing false tax returns.

According to charging documents reviewed by Insider, Kolfage’s tax filings for 2019 represented an income of $63,574. In fact, the charges say, Kolfage personally received hundreds of thousands of dollars that year through his “We Build a Wall” project and other organizations.

The charges were first reported by Bloomberg News.

In August, federal prosecutors in New York filed an indictment against Kolfage and Bannon, accusing them of using some of the $25 million raised for the “We Build a Wall” organization to line their own pockets. Two other right-wing political operatives, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, were also charged in the scheme.

The prosecutors accused Kolfage of using $350,000 in donor money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including spending money on home renovations, a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, plastic surgery, and credit-card debt.

Kolfage launched the “We Build a Wall” fundraiser in December 2018, during a government shutdown, in a failed attempt to raise $1 billion to build a US-Mexico border privately. Trump himself had distanced himself from the project.

Trump pardoned Bannon, his former campaign chairman and chief White House strategist, on his last day in office. He didn’t pardon Kolfage, Badolato, or Shea.

Additional charging documents in the Florida case detailing how Kolfage handled his money were not immediately available in public court records. The indictment says Kolfage kept his money in the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which typically represents members of the US Military. Kolfage is an Air Force veteran and lost both arms and a leg in the Iraq War.

An attorney representing Kolfage didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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