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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: brian kolfage

Bannon Expected To Surrender Thursday To Face New Indictment

By Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) - Steve Bannon, a onetime top strategist for former President Donald Trump and recipient of a presidential pardon, is expected to surrender to New York authorities on Thursday to face a new indictment, a person familiar with the matter said.

Bannon in 2020 was accused in federal court of defrauding donors to a fund to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but that indictment was dismissed after he was pardoned in the final hours of Trump's presidency.

The new indictment is for state criminal charges that may mirror parts of the earlier federal case, though it is unclear because the indictment is still sealed, the person said.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office declined to comment.

Bannon himself issued a statement Tuesday night, after the Washington Post first reported the new indictment.

"This is nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system," Bannon said in the statement.

He said Manhattan federal prosecutors did the same thing in August 2020 to try to take him out of that year's election.

"It didn't work then; it certainly won't work now," Bannon said.

Bannon is expected to appear in state court in Manhattan on Thursday and then be released pending trial, the person said.

A president can pardon people for federal crimes but not state crimes.

Bannon is not the first Trump ally to be charged in state court. In 2019, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office attempted to pursue former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on felony charges, including mortgage fraud, that were similar to crimes for which Manafort had been convicted in federal court.

But the charges were dismissed after rulings that they amounted to double jeopardy, or trying someone twice for the same conduct. Manafort was pardoned by Trump in 2020.

Bannon had pleaded not guilty in the federal case, but double jeopardy may not apply because he was never tried.

Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, who were charged alongside Bannon in the federal “We Build the Wall” case, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in April.

Bannon runs a popular hard-right podcast, "War Room," where he regularly promotes pro-Trump information and hosts guests who deny that Trump lost the 2020 election.

In July, Bannon was convicted of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating last year's attack on the U.S. Capitol, a verdict the panel called a "victory for the rule of law."

Bannon was a main adviser to Trump's 2016 Republican presidential campaign, then served as his chief White House strategist during 2017 before a falling out that was later patched up.

Bannon, 68, championed "America First" right-wing populism and fierce opposition to immigration that became hallmarks of Trump's presidency.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; additional reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

New York Prosecutors Intensify Fraud Probe Of Steve Bannon

In recent weeks, several people close to Steve Bannon, former President Trump’s erstwhile adviser and strategist, received subpoenas to testify before a New York state grand jury about the ex-adviser’s fundraising efforts for a private border wall, which Trump promised to build and make Mexico pay for, CNN reported on Friday.

The subpoenaed testimony will aid the Manhattan District Attorney’s probe into Bannon, which kicked off shortly after Trump pardoned Bannon, CNN stated, citing unnamed sources privy to the investigation.

The subpoenas underscore the intensification of the Manhattan DA’s investigation, which could lead to criminal charges against Bannon. Trump’s pardon may shield Bannon from federal charges, but it does not affect state prosecutions.

Federal prosecutors accused Bannon and three others — Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea — of fraud and money laundering for allegedly siphoning hundreds of thousands of dollars from “We Build the Wall,” a crowdfunding campaign for Trump’s border wall that raised $25 million.

Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said Bannon siphoned $1 million from We Build the Wall through a non-profit group he controlled to “secretly pay” Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran and face of the crowdfunding initiative. Bannon was also accused of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use.

“We’re off the coast of Saint-Tropez in southern France, in the Mediterranean,” Bannon said, sitting beside Kolfage on a yacht in 2019. “We’re on the million-dollar yacht of Brian Kolfage. Brian Kolfage, who took all that money from ‘We Build The Wall.’ No, we’re actually in Sunland Park, New Mexico.”

However, the looming investigation is not the end of Bannon’s legal woes. He was charged with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee, a congressional panel investigating the January 2021 insurrection. Bannon pleaded not guilty.

News outlets asked Bannon’s lawyer about the subpoenas, and he replied, “I am unaware of these matters.”

According to the 2020 indictment, Kolfage, who promised not to pocket a single cent of the donations, spent his million on home renovations, a boat, and even plastic surgery, among other things.

Trump, who made building a “big, beautiful wall” a central part of his 2016 election campaign, later criticized the effort — which, in 2019, constructed one mile of an 18-foot-high fence on a private property it owned — saying it was initiated “only to make me look bad.”

Trump pardoned Bannon before leaving the White House but not his three co-conspirators. Last month, Kolfage and Badolato pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, and Kolfage also pleaded guilty to tax-related charges. Shea pleaded not guilty to wire-fraud, tax-related, and records-falsifying charges and is now on trial in federal court.

Bannon’s 'Private Border Wall' Partner Indicted For Tax Fraud

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Florida man who served as the co-founder of the "We Build The Wall" project has been indicted on another charge for tax fraud, according to a report from the Associated Press. The latest charges are in addition to his previous tax and fraud charges.

On Tuesday, July 6, Brian Kolfage of Miramar Beach, Florida, was indicted by a grand jury for filing a false tax return. This new charge expands on allegations first brought against Kolfage two months ago. In May, the prosecutors offered details about Kolfage's involvement in a previous scheme "to defraud the government in relation to his 2019 federal income tax returns." The leaders of the "We Build the Wall" project were first indicted for allegedly defrauding donors in August 2020.

Per the AP:

"Kolfage received hundreds of thousands of dollars from multiple organizations during 2019, including We Build the Wall Inc., which were deposited into his personal bank account, prosecutors said. Kolfage failed to report this income to the IRS, officials said. The new charge is related to Kolfage filing a false amended tax return in December 2020, investigators said."

Last year, Kolfage and Steve Bannon were indicted by a New York federal grand jury as prosecutors alleged they "worked to divert some of the $25 million raised for the wall project for their own personal use." Former President Donald Trump pardoned Bannon for the charges prior to leaving office.

Attorneys for Kolfage have not yet responded to the AP's requests for comment.

New Engineering Report Warns Privately Funded Border Wall Will Fall

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

It's not a matter of if a privately built border fence along the shores of the Rio Grande will fail, it's a matter of when, according to a new engineering report on the troubled project.

The report is one of two new studies set to be filed in federal court this week that found numerous deficiencies in the 3-mile border fence, built this year by North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel. The reports confirm earlier reporting from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, which found that segments of the structure were in danger of overturning due to extensive erosion if not fixed and properly maintained. Fisher dismissed the concerns as normal post-construction issues.

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Prosecutors Aim At Bannon’s Murky Ideological ’Social Welfare’ Outfit

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Near the end of a lengthy indictment detailing fraud allegations against Stephen Bannon, former Donald Trump campaign CEO and chief strategist and his associates, federal prosecutors reveal that they intend to seize the assets of a murky nonprofit organization Bannon launched in 2017 to promote “economic nationalism."

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Trump Claims He Rejected Wall Scam, But Sponsors Boasted Of His Support

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

After Steve Bannon's arrest on Thursday, Donald Trump tried to put a Grand Canyon-sized gap between himself and the "We Build The Wall" border scheme. Bannon, Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea were indicted on counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The federal indictment says the crew pilfered "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and a Bannon-controlled nonprofit received more than $1 million in funds.

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Homeland Security Chief Endorsed Fraudulent Border Wall Scheme

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on its previous endorsement of a self-funded border wall group, whose leaders were arrested on Thursday morning and charged with defrauding donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A video from July posted by Brian Kolfage — one of four men arrested on Thursday and charged with fraud — shows Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf standing next to a Customs and Border Patrol agent as she praised the self-funded wall project from the We Build the Wall group.

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The Right-Wing Outlets That Promoted Bannon’s Fraudulent ‘Border Wall’

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Florida veteran Brian Kolfage, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, and two others "orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors" who supported their online crowdfunding campaign effort to construct a barrier on the U.S. southern border, according to an indictment federal prosecutors unsealed Thursday. The group had relied on credulous coverage and support from right-wing media outlets and personalities to drive more than $20 million in donations.

In December 2018, as President Donald Trump prepared to shut down the federal government in hopes of obtaining funds to build his long-sought border wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin suggested that the president's supporters instead crowdfund its construction. "Let the people who support the wall pay for it -- directly and voluntarily," Goodwin wrote.

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