Remember the We Build The Wall campaign started by Trump associate Steve Bannon and others claiming that they would build Trump’s idiotic border wall using private funds raised through a GoFundMe campaign? It looked like a scam right from the get-go. Sure enough, that is what it was.
In August 2020, federal prosecutors charged Kolfage, Bannon, Badolato, and Shea with conspiring to defraud We Build the Wall’s donors. We Build the Wall allegedly promised that every penny raised would go to construction, but prosecutors said Bannon pocketed $1 million. Kolfage took $350,000 plus went on a spending spree to buy a Jupiter Marine yacht called the Warfighter, a Range Rover SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, and cosmetic surgery, according to the indictment.
Living the high life while scamming the dupes. It is all so very Trumpian.
Back in August 2020, I blogged about how Bannon and associates were indicted for siphoning off for their personal use some of the $25 million they raised to privately build the wall. I predicted back then that “just before he leaves office after losing in November, [Trump] will pardon them, along with all the other crooks inside and outside his administration.”
Part of my prediction came true. Trump did lose in 2020 and he did pardon Bannon on his last day in office. But Bannon’s co-grifters was not pardoned and Kolfage has just agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and three tax charges after raising $25 million in a GoFundMe campaign called We Build the Wall. He could face up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 21, 2022.
Even by the standards of right-wing griftery, We Build the Wall was bold stuff. According to the Justice Department’s 2020 press release, “to induce donors to donate to the campaign, Kolfage repeatedly and falsely assured the public that he would ‘not take a penny in salary or compensation’ and that ‘100% of the funds raised…will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose’ because, as Bannon publicly stated, ‘we’re a volunteer organization.’”
In reality, however, Kolfage “covertly took for his personal use more than $350,000,” while Bannon grabbed enough to “cover hundreds of thousands of dollars” in personal expenses. At a 2019 telethon to raise funds for the project, Bannon infamously joked that “we’re on the million-dollar yacht of Brian Kolfage. Brian Kolfage—who took all that money from Build the Wall.”
According to the indictment, the defendants actually did funnel We Build the Wall Funds into purchasing a yacht—a big 40-foot beauty they deemed “WarFighter.” It even appeared at one of those infamous “boat parades” to support Trump’s presidential campaign in 2020.
A plea deal for the other two seem to be in the works.