Co-Founder of Fundraising Group Linked to Steve Bannon Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Donor Money

Co-Founder of Fundraising Group Linked to Steve Bannon Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Donor Money

Brian Kolfage, a veteran of the Air Force and co-founder of the We Build the Wall campaign, has been sentenced to four years and three months in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors. He lost both his legs and an arm in the Iraq War. Andrew Badolato, a co-defendant and financier, was also sentenced to three years for his role in the theft. Tim Shea, another man involved in the siphoning of funds from the wall project, will be sentenced in June.

The Charges

Kolfage pleaded guilty for his role in siphoning donations from the We Build the Wall campaign. The scheme was hatched by Kolfage and his partner Shea, who turned to Steve Bannon and Badolato for help creating a nonprofit, We Build the Wall, Inc. The four defendants then took steps to funnel the money to themselves for personal gain. Bannon was also arrested and faced fraud charges, but he was pardoned by Trump during his final hours in office. He is now awaiting trial for new state charges brought against him by the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

The Consequences

Kolfage and Badolato were ordered to pay $25 million in restitution to the victims. They were not pardoned by Trump, leaving them to face the prospect of years in prison. Kolfage received more than $350,000 in donor funds, which he spent on personal expenses that included boat payments, a luxury SUV, and cosmetic surgery. Badolato and Shea also stole hundreds of thousands from fundraisers.

The Outcome

Some sections of a border barrier were built by We Build the Wall on private lands, but the nonprofit is now defunct. Prosecutors said the defendants not only cheated their donors but contributed to a “chilling effect on civic participation” by tarnishing the reputation of political fundraising. Kolfage told Judge Analisa Torres that he was “remorseful, disgusted, humiliated.” He said he had not anticipated the scale of donations that would flood in for the cause and soon found himself drifting away from his initial goal, which he said was “putting a spotlight on the country’s broken immigration system.” Torres said the fraudsters behind We Build The Wall injured the body politic.


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