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Two Bannon associates sentenced to prison in border wall scheme

<i>Briana Sanchez/El Paso Times/USA Today Network</i><br/>Brian Kolfage
Briana Sanchez / El Paso Times v
Briana Sanchez/El Paso Times/USA Today Network
Brian Kolfage

By Laura Ly, CNN

Two associates of former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon were sentenced to more than seven years in prison collectively in connection with defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a border wall scheme, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Brian Kolfage was sentenced to over four years in prison and Andrew Badolato was sentenced to serve three years “in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as ‘We Build The Wall’ by soliciting donations using false statements and then stealing the resulting donations,” the US attorney’s office said.

Kolfage, 41, and Badolato, 58, were indicted alongside Bannon and each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in April 2022. Kolfage also pleaded guilty to two counts of filing a false tax return and one count of wire fraud in connection with filing a false tax return. Bannon, who pleaded not guilty to the federal charges and denied any wrongdoing, was pardoned by then-President Trump in his final days in office. Bannon still faces charges in New York state court.

Both men were each sentenced to three years of supervised release. Kolfage must also forfeit $17.8 million and pay $2.8 million in restitution. Badolato must forfeit $1.4 million and pay $1.4 million in restitution, according to the release.

US District Judge Analisa Torres said that Kolfage’s and Badalato’s actions would “undoubtedly have a chilling effect” on political donations and that their crime called into question the effectiveness of political involvement.

“The fraud perpetrated by Mr. Kolfage and Mr. Badolato went well beyond defrauding individual donors. They hurt us all,” Torres said in a statement.

Bannon and Kolfage promised donors that the campaign, which ultimately raised more than $25 million, was “a volunteer organization” and that “100% of the funds raised … will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose,” according to the indictment.

But instead, according to prosecutors, Bannon, through a nonprofit under his control, used more than $1 million from We Build the Wall to “secretly” pay Kolfage and cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bannon’s personal expenses.

Kolfage, according to the charges, spent more than $350,000 of the donations on personal expenses, including cosmetic surgery, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, payments toward a boat, home renovations, jewelry, personal tax payments and credit card debt.

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CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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