Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon arrived in a New York court on Thursday to face new charges related to the charity. The US-Mexico border wall should be built with private funds.
Bannon, 68, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy, according to a court filing released Thursday morning.
The six-count indictment also names the group WeBuildTheWall.Inc, which allegedly worked with Bannon on the program in 2019. Bannon chairs the group’s “advisory committee,” which prosecutors say will go toward building the wall along the southern border, not the people doing the work, by insisting that all the money it raises.
The group’s president, Brian Kolfage, who was not named in the indictment, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the scheme, the filing said. The indictment alleges that Bannon transferred some of the funds to him, who transferred campaign funds to a nonprofit under Bannon’s control, and then used the cash to pay Kolfage $140,000.
Prosecutors claim Bannon was well aware the group was promoting Kolfage telling donors “I’m getting zero pay and no compensation,” claims Bannon himself echoed.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement that Bannon “acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country — including hundreds of Manhattan residents. “
“It’s a crime to make a profit by lying to a donor, and in New York, you’re going to be held accountable,” Bragg said.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, which cooperated with district attorneys in the investigation, said Bannon “used the political views of his donors to obtain millions of dollars that he then misappropriated” and ” Lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends.”
Bannon was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Thursday afternoon.
“This is nothing more than the partisan weaponization of the criminal justice system,” Bannon said in a statement to NBC News on Tuesday.
Bannon was hit by federal prosecutors in August 2020 on charges related to the same scheme. He pleaded not guilty and was later pardoned by then-President Donald Trump”
NBC News reported in February 2021 that a month after Trump pardoned Bannon, the district attorney’s office had begun investigating whether Bannon was involved in an alleged scam. Presidential pardons apply only to federal cases, meaning New York is not barred from bringing similar charges.
A federal case alleges Bannon is one of four who “orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” from some of the more than $25 million raised through an online crowdfunding campaign to help fulfill Trump’s construction of the border Wall Promise. Federal authorities say Bannon used his nonprofit to secure more than $1 million in funding for the wall.
Bannon’s two co-defendants in the federal case, Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, pleaded guilty in April and are scheduled to be sentenced in December. The trial of a third co-defendant, Timothy Shea, ended in a mistrial in June when the jury was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. Shea plans to retire in October.
Bannon is also awaiting sentencing after being convicted of a misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges for flouting a congressional inquiry into a House committee subpoena on Jan. 1. 6 Riots broke out at the Capitol. He faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Bannon’s case is not the first time the New York District Attorney’s Office has brought a case involving a former presidential ally.
Last June, the office charged the Trump Organization and its then-CFO Allen Weisselberg with tax fraud and other charges in what they said was a comprehensive 15-year program that Designed to compensate executives “on the books” and help them avoid paying taxes.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in the case last month, is expected to testify at the trial in October.
The company has pleaded not guilty, and Trump has not been charged in the case. However, he insisted the investigation was part of a political “witch hunt” against him and accused Bragg, who is black, of being a “racist” in pursuing the case.
The case was originally brought by Prague’s predecessor Cyrus Vance.
Vance also filed criminal charges in 2019 against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, accusing him of falsifying business records to obtain millions of dollars in residential mortgages. The case was later dismissed on double jeopardy grounds, as he had already been tried and convicted for related crimes uncovered by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
The Manafort case may not help Bannon. The state passed a law in late 2019 that allows its prosecutors to charge anyone serving in the presidential administration, directly or indirectly promoting a presidential campaign or transition, or in a nonprofit or by a president whose alleged criminal activity occurred in New York .