Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was arrested and placed in federal custody on Thursday on fraud charges.
The allegation: The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York charged Bannon and three others for allegedly defrauding donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own profit with a crowdfunding campaign to build a border wall.
- "We Build the Wall" collected more than $25 million in the name of constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, fulfilling a signature political pledge by President Donald Trump.
- Bannon allegedly received more than $1 million from the organization and spent several hundred thousand dollars of the money on personal expenses.
- His co-defendants — Brian Kolfage, who served as the organization's founder and president, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea — also allegedly used the money "for a variety of personal expenses, including, among other things, travel, hotel, consumer goods and personal credit card debts."
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement that the defendants raised the money under the "false pretense" that 100% of the funds would go toward the project.
- "While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle," Strauss said.
- They used fake invoices and false vendor arrangements to carry out the scheme, the prosecutors alleged.
The reaction: On Twitter, many of Trump's critics celebrated the arrest of his former adviser, the latest Trump associate to be hit with federal charges
HAPPY STEVE BANNON IS INDICTED DAY, EVERYONE!!! pic.twitter.com/fzClMyHZZe— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) August 20, 2020
Some of Trump's supporters, on the other hand, speculated that the prosecutions were politically motivated.
Perfect timing 4 taking disastrous Democrat Convention out of headlines. Polls 4 Dems a disaster. No one likes Kamala. Joe has dementia. Radical Jew-haters & Jeffrey Epstein’s best buddy on stage. Deep State indicts friend of Trump. Wag the Dog. https://t.co/m7XSv3lL4b— Wayne Allyn Root (@RealWayneRoot) August 20, 2020
Each of the defendants was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
- They faced up to 40 years in prison if convicted of both charges.