Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon charged with money laundering in connection with border wall project

NEW YORK, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Steve Bannon, the longtime ally and former strategist of former U.S. President Donald Trump, has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy for allegedly deceiving donors in connection with of an effort to help Trump build a wall along the United States. -Mexican border.

Bannon, 68, was charged in an indictment released Thursday with two counts of money laundering, three counts of conspiracy and one count of fraud.

The case arose out of what prosecutors described as a $25 million private fundraiser, known as “We’re building the wall,” for the former Republican president’s signature wall.

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According to the indictment, Bannon promised donors that all of their money would go to the Wall, but hid his role in diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign’s chief executive, who promised not to take no salary.

The chief executive was identified in court papers as Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who pleaded guilty in April to federal wire fraud conspiracy and tax charges, and is awaiting sentencing. Read more

Thursday’s indictment relates to some of the conduct underlying a federal lawsuit against Bannon in August 2020, who also said he misappropriated nearly $1 million for his personal expenses.

Bannon pleaded not guilty in that case, which ended in January 2021 when Trump pardoned him in the final hours of his presidency. Presidential pardons do not bar prosecution.

“Stephen Bannon acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “It’s a crime to profit by lying to donors, and in New York you will be held accountable.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office worked with Bragg’s office on the investigation. James and Bragg are Democrats who have also investigated Trump and his companies.

“The very day the mayor of this town has a delegation at the border, they’re persecuting people here (for trying to) stop them at the border,” Bannon said outside Bragg’s office, alluding to a recent trip. city ​​officials. in Texas.

“All of this takes about 60 days,” Bannon added, apparently referring to the November election.

Bannon is scheduled to be arraigned at 2:15 p.m. EDT (6:15 p.m. GMT) in New York Criminal Court in Manhattan. His attorney David Schoen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Thursday’s indictment includes multiple communications from 2019 involving Bannon, Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, who also pleaded guilty in April in the federal case.

Bannon at the time chaired the WeBuildTheWall Inc advisory board of Kolfage, who was charged Thursday with the same six counts.

The indictment said Bannon texted in January 2019 that there would be “

His message was different five months later, according to the indictment, when he told potential donors at a fundraiser: “Remember, all the money you donate goes to building from the wall”.

Attorneys for Kolfage and Badolato did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A fourth defendant in the federal case, Timothy Shea, was tried, which ended in a mistrial.

The state investigation into Bannon began under Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance.

Bragg also inherited Vance’s investigation of Trump’s namesake company, the Trump Organization, which, along with longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, was charged with tax offenses in July 2021.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August and the Trump Organization faces a trial scheduled for October.

Bannon is not the first former Trump ally indicted in federal and state court.

In March 2019, Vance filed fraud charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that were similar to the federal charges for which Manafort was convicted and sentenced to 7½ years in prison.

But a New York judge threw out the state’s charges nine months later because they amounted to a double jeopardy.

Trump pardoned Manafort in December 2020.

Double jeopardy may not apply to the Bannon case because he was never tried on the federal charges.

Bannon champions right-wing “America First” populism, including fierce opposition to existing immigration practices, which have become hallmarks of Trump’s presidency.

He now runs the popular “War Room” podcast and often hosts guests who deny that Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

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Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Mark Porter and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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