Bannon At Risk In New York Fraud Case -- After Stiffing His Lawyer

Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Steve Bannon is having a bad one. A recent filing by Bannon’s lawyers suggests the former top advisor to Donald Trump may have shot himself in the foot when he decided to not pay the nearly half a million dollars he owed his previous lawyer, Robert Costello, for services rendered.

The law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, where Costello is a partner, sued Bannon in early 2023, winning a judgment against him in July. According to the Daily Beast, Bannon’s lawyers filed a motion on January 11, to block Costello’s firm from pursuing “post-judgment discovery from Mr. Bannon,” by arguing that the requests for banking statements and other information that the law firm had asked for “poses a significant risk of compromising Mr. Bannon’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”

At issue seems to be the fact that while Bannon is facing an indictment in New York City alleging that he defrauded donors to the “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign, these “post-judgement” discovery requests might force Bannon to admit a teensy-weensy bit of fraud.

When Bannon and his crew were originally arrested and federally charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering, he got the lucky break that Donald Trump was still in office and pardoned him. By most reports, there was more than enough evidence that money raised by the “We Build the Wall” scam was going to anything but building a wall. It came as no surprise when Brian Kolfage, the fundraiser’s co-founder, pled guilty to his role in siphoning off money from the campaign. Last April, the Associate Press detailed the allegations:

Prosecutors said the scheme was hatched by Kolfage, who served as the public face of the effort as it raised more than $25 million from donors across the country. He repeatedly assured the public he would “not take a penny” from the campaign.

As money poured into the cause, Kolfage and his partner, Shea, turned to Bannon and Badolato for help creating a nonprofit, We Build the Wall, Inc. The four defendants then took steps to funnel the money to themselves for personal gain, prosecutors said.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James announced new charges against Bannon and WEBUILDTHEWALL, INC., in September 2022. Bannon’s trial has been set for May 28, 2024. But a couple months after the charges, Bannon’s prospects seemed to go in the toilet when he said he needed a new law team, citing “irreconcilable differences” and a communication breakdown.

Two months later, Bannon’s billionaire buddy Guo Wengui was arrested and indicted by federal agents for his own alleged fraud scheme involving his Gettr social media platform. Gettr has financial ties with Bannon and his podcast. In its recent filing, law firm where Costello is a parter has reportedly served restraining notices to entities like Gettr and Bannon’s War Room LLC (which produces his podcast). According to New York-based debt collection attorney Jocelyn Nager:

A restraining notice is a legal document served by a collection attorney or creditor that requires the recipient of the subpoena to hold any monies or other specific types of assets that belong to the judgment debtor. The judgment debtor does not need to be in possession of these assets. In most cases, a third party holds the assets for the judgment debtor.

Judgment creditors can serve restraining notices on financial institutions, like a bank. The bank searches its database and, if they locate an account or safe deposit bank, absent an exemption, the bank must restrain the asset for up to one year.

Earlier this week, Manhattan prosecutors mocked Bannon’s attempt to dismiss his fraud case as “bear[ing] little resemblance to reality.” They wrote, “People's presentation in the instant matter included ample evidence that was more than sufficient to support the grand jury's decision to vote the charges laid out in the indictment.”

It couldn’t be happening to a better guy.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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