Bannon and his alleged accomplices are said to have raised more than $25 million in private money via a crowdfunding platform called “We Build the Wall.”
Federal agents boarded a yacht off the coast of Connecticut to apprehend Bannon. They took him to New York City, where a grand jury indicted him, along with his co-conspirators, for a scheme to defraud donors.
Allegedly Bannon and his accomplices raised more than $25 million in private money via a crowdfunding platform called “We Build the Wall” to build a section of Trump’s southern border wall.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly proclaimed that he would construct a wall along the southern border if elected. Though he promised Mexico would pay for the wall, he has not made good on that promise. The president has since tangled with Congress over whether U.S. taxpayers should fund the project.
Profiting from the non-profit
The “We Build the Wall” organization provided an opportunity for Trump supporters to continue to voice their support for the president and his campaign promise. Through the organization’s platform, they were able to financially support the presidential project, making donations to support construction of the wall.
Bannon and another organizer, Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, claimed they would not take any compensation as part of the campaign.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
According to the indictment, Bannon, via a non-profit, took in over $1 million from the scheme “and at least some of it was used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in [his] personal expenses.”
Meanwhile, Kolfage allegedly used some of the money to buy a boat named the Warfighter that was spotted in a recent Trump “boat parade” in Florida.
As a result of the indictment, each of them could face up to 20 years in prison.
“This case should serve as a warning to other fraudsters that no one is above the law, not even a disabled war veteran or a millionaire political strategist,” said Philip Bartlett, the New York inspector in charge for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which handled the investigation along with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
The news of Bannon being under criminal investigation has not received the widespread coverage one would expect.
The information, however, hardly comes as a shock. President Trump’s former national security adviser, campaign chairman, deputy campaign manager, lawyer, and political confidant have already been prosecuted for federal crimes.
Prior to the charges of fraud, Bannon has been estranged from Trump since 2017 when Trump fired his former chief strategist. Despite the fracture, he has remained a Trump booster on the outside.
The president recently distanced himself from the efforts of “We Build the Wall” after a report emerged saying the privately-funded section of the wall was structurally unsound.
“I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads,” he tweeted last month. “It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work.”
In the wake of Bannon’s indictment for fraud, Trump has been trying to distance himself from his former aide, though he told reporters he felt bad for him.
“[H]e was involved … in our campaign, and for a small part of the administration, very early on. I haven’t been dealing with him at all,” Trump said. “I don’t know that he was in charge. I didn’t know any of the other people either.”