Washington [US], Aug 21 (ANI): President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon are among four people arrested for their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign to build the US-Mexico border wall, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.
The other three arrested include Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea.
"Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Brian Kolfage, Stephen Bannon, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea for their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as 'We Build the Wall' that raised more than $25 million," a release said.
"Although the campaign promised donors that the funds would be used to build the wall, the defendants "secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle," the Justice Department said.
The defendants set up a scheme aimed at defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign dubbed "We Build The Wall" that collected more than USD25 million to build a wall along the United States' southern border.
"In particular, to induce donors to donate to the campaign, Kolfage repeatedly and falsely assured the public that he would 'not take a penny in salary or compensation' and that "100 per cent of the funds raised... will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose," the release said.
The Justice Department said those representations were false and the defendants received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds that they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization's public representations.
Kolfage took for his personal use more than $350,000 in funds that donors had given to the campaign, while Bannon got more than $1 million via a non-profit organization under his control and used at least some of the money to cover personal expenses, the Justice Department said.
"To conceal the payments to Kolfage from We Build the Wall, Stephen Bannon, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea devised a scheme to route those payments from We Build the Wall to Kolfage indirectly through Non-Profit-1 and a shell company under Shea's control, among other avenues," the release said. "They did so by using fake invoices and sham 'vendor' arrangements, among other ways, to ensure, as KOLFAGE noted in a text message to Badolato, that his pay arrangement remained 'confidential' and kept on a 'need to know' basis."
All four defendants have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, the Justice Department said. (ANI)