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Steve Bannon arrested on money laundering charges

By Elizabeth Hearst

The former White House advisor to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon has been arrested for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. 

His arrest comes in connection to a crowdfunding campaign “We Build The Wall”, whereby prosecutors allege that Bannon scammed hundreds of thousands of donors from the online campaign, according to the Department of Justice. 

The crowdfunding campaign raised more than $25 Million to build a wall between the US and Mexican border. Mr Bannon was arrested in Washington D.C this morning, and is accused of “falsely assuring” donors that the “organizers were not taking a penny of donation money”. 

The unsealed indictment states that Bannon took at least $1 Million to pay personal expenses from the crowdfunding campaign. The four accused, Brian Kolfage, Stephen Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea were all arrested on Thursday. 

Acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “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 the money would be spent on construction”. 

“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,” she added. 

Inspector-in-charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds. As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide the misrepresentation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth”. 

The misappropriation began in December 2018, when Brian Kolfage assured the public that he would “not take a penny in salary or compensation”, because “100% of funds raised… will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose”, with Steve Bannon publicly stating “we’re a volunteer organization”. 

The accused are suspected to have routed payments from the “We Build The Wall” fund through a Non-Profit-1 and shell company under Mr Shea’s control, and did so through the use of fake invoices and sham “vendor arrangements”. 

Bannon, Kolfage, Badolato and Shea are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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