Steve Bannon joked about We Build The Wall founder Brian Kolfage stealing money from the fund and boasted about the triple amputee veteran’s ‘million-dollar yacht’ in footage shot one year before the pair were arrested for massive fraud scheme
- Newly resurfaced footage of the pair taken on June 24, 2019 shows the two men openly laughing and joking about peddling money from the border wall scheme
- The video was part of We Build The Wall’s ‘Wall-A-Thon’ fundraiser
- Bannon boasts they are on board Kolfage’s ‘million-dollar yacht’ and laughs that the veteran ‘took all that money’ from the scheme
- Bannon, Kolfage and two others – Timothy Shea and Andrew Badolato – are accused of being part of massive fraud scheme
- They allegedly stole funds from the We Build The Wall scheme and used it to fund their lavish lifestyles
- Bannon is Donald Trump’s former most trusted aide and one of the key players in the president’s 2016 White House campaign
- He is accused of pilfering $1 million from the scheme – some for himself
- Trump denies all knowledge of the scheme despite its online appeal saying ‘Trump Approved’
- Kolfage, a Purple Heart veteran, is accused of being the main beneficiary of the scam allegedly pocketing $350,000 using it to pay for boats
Steve Bannon joked about We Build The Wall founder Brian Kolfage stealing money from the fund and boasted about the triple amputee veteran’s ‘million-dollar yacht’ in a video shot one year before the two men were arrested over the alleged massive fraud scheme.
Bannon, Kolfage and two others – Timothy Shea and Andrew Badolato – were charged this week with conning donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay to build a section of border wall.
The funds were allegedly stolen from the We Build The Wall GoFundMe account and used to fund their lavish lifestyles.
Bannon, Donald Trump’s former aide and one of the key players in the president’s 2016 White House campaign, was arrested Thursday when investigators swooped on a 150-foot yacht off the coast of Connecticut and charged him with pilfering $1 million from the scheme, some of which he kept for himself.
Kolfage, a Purple Heart veteran who lost an arm and two legs in Iraq in 2004, was arrested at his home in Florida and is accused of being the main beneficiary of the scam, allegedly pocketing a staggering $350,000 of donor money while he and his wife flaunted their extravagant lifestyles on social media.
Steve Bannon (right) joked about We Build The Wall founder Brian Kolfage (left) stealing money from the fund and boasted about the triple amputee veteran’s ‘million-dollar yacht’ in a video shot one year before the two men were arrested over the alleged massive fraud scheme
Newly resurfaced footage of the pair taken on 24 June 2019 shows the two men openly laughing and joking about peddling money from the border wall scheme, more than a year before the feds swooped in
Newly resurfaced footage of the pair taken on June 24, 2019 shows the two men openly laughing and joking about peddling money from the border wall scheme, more than a year before the feds swooped in.
In the video, part of We Build The Wall’s ‘Wall-A-Thon’ fundraiser to draw in donors to the scheme, Bannon boasts that they are on board Kolfage’s ‘million-dollar yacht’ and laughs that the veteran ‘took all that money’ from the scheme.
‘Welcome back and this is Stephen K. Bannon,’ Bannon says to the camera, while sitting next to Kolfage.
‘We’re off the coast of Saint-Tropez in southern France, in the Mediterranean. We’re on the million-dollar yacht of Brian Kolfage.’
The two men look at each other and laugh as Bannon pats Kolfage on the shoulder.
‘Brian Kolfage – who took all that money from Build The Wall,’ Bannon adds, while Kolfage continues to smile at his alleged co-conspirator.
Bannon then says: ‘No, we’re actually in Sunland Park, New Mexico.’
Social media users were baffled at the footage, which, based on the allegations made against the two men this week, point to an inside joke about the scam that was very much under way at the time.
‘All criminals secretly want to get caught,’ one person tweeted.
Brian Kolfage, 38 ,and his wife Ashley, 33, were the main beneficiaries of the scheme, according to prosecutors. The pair live in Miramar Beach on Florida’s panhandle. They are pictured on their boat
A boat posted on Kolfage’s Instagram. It is not clear if this is the boat that the funds were allegedly used for
Kolfage launched the private wall effort in December 2018. He took it off GoFundMe recently because, he claimed, the company was not allowing him to fundraise for victims of assaults by BLM protesters
Though the two men were not on board a yacht at the time, prosecutors this week accused Kolfage of using the stolen money on boat payments among other things.
Cannon was also seized by law enforcement while on board the super-yacht of Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire wanted by the Chinese authorities.
The unearthed footage was shared on social media by The Lincoln Project Friday – the anti-Trump political action group that has publicly backed Joe Biden, co-founded by George Conway.
Conway is the husband of Kellyanne Conway, a close adviser to Trump and his third campaign manager during the 2016 race for the White House – alongside Bannon.
The president was forced to speak out about his ties to Bannon this week.
He claims he knew nothing about the scheme from his former most trusted aide – despite the group’s online appeal for funds including a picture of Trump and a stamp that says ‘Trump Approved.’
Trump’s son Don Jr. also visited one section in Sunland Park, New Mexico, in July 2019.
Steve Bannon, wearing his distinctive two shirts, was on deck checking his phone hours before federal agents arrested him on board the super-yacht off the coast of Connecticut
The Cayman Islands-registered Lady May where Steve Bannon was seized
But the president described Bannon’s arrest as ‘sad’, claimed he hadn’t dealt with him ‘for a very long period of time’ and slammed the border wall scheme as ‘showboating’.
‘I feel very badly. I haven’t been dealing with him for a very long period of time,’ he said in the Oval Office, adding: ‘I haven’t been dealing with him at all. It’s a very sad thing by Mr. Bannon.’
‘He was involved in our campaign and for a small part of our administration.’
He added: ‘I don’t like that project. I thought it was being done for showboating reasons. It was something I very much thought was inappropriate to be doing.’
Trump’s efforts to distance himself from his former campaign manager come despite Bannon fronting his campaign as the Trump campaign CEO for its last 88 days after the ousting of Paul Manafort – who is now a convicted felon himself – and then taking the major role as Trump’s ‘Chief Strategist’ with a West Wing office close to the Oval Office.
The president was forced to speak out about his ties to Bannon this week. Pictured together in 2017 in the White House
How it was marketed: This was the GoFundMe originally set up to ‘privately fund’ a border wall
The fraudulent scheme allegedly began in 2018 when Kolfage set up the We Build The Wall GoFundMe account in support of Trump and to prove the nation’s appetite for a border wall between the US and Mexico.
It was inundated with donations from Republicans and had collected more than $20million by December that year.
It propelled Kolfage into the sphere of media and politics. He frequently tweets in support of the president and against the liberal left, trashes COVID-19 as the ‘biggest scam the world has ever seen’ and fires back at anyone who questions the progress of his wall.
The wall that his fund was paying for is not the same one the government is building.
GoFundMe became suspicious of where the money was going and warned Kolfage to donate it to a legitimate charity or refund everyone who’d given to it.
That is when, prosecutors say, Bannon, Timothy Shea and Andrew Badolato got involved.
They used shell companies and We Build The Wall Inc, a not-for-profit formed by Bannon, to launder the money back to Kolfage and keep some for themselves, it’s claimed.
The fund would pay the shell companies, then they would deposit the money back into accounts held by Kolfage or his wife, it is alleged.
Despite claiming on the GoFundMe that he’d ‘never take a penny’ from the donations, the indictment alleges that Kolfage took a $20,000-a-month salary from it in addition to a one-off, $100,000 payment. In total, he took $350,000, it’s claimed.
Kolfage lost both his legs and an arm in 2004 in an attack on his air base in Iraq. He is shown after the blast. Upon his return to the US, he was given the Purple Heart
Kolfage with wife Ashley. The pair allegedly spent the funds on their lavish lifestyle
At times, they tried to make it look less suspicious by making some of the payments to Ashley, labeling them as ‘media’ fees.
Kolfage and his wife Ashley spent it on boats, an SUV, plastic surgery, jewelry, home renovations and credit card debt, prosecutors claim.
Bannon, Shea and Badolato spent the hundreds of thousands they funneled on travel, hotels, consumer goods and credit card debt.
Bannon, in particular, received over $1million from the fund.
While some of that money was used to pay Kolfage, he used a ‘substantial portion’ for personal uses and expenses unrelated to We Build the Wall, the prosecutors claim.
In text messages, they defendants discussed the fact that the payments between the charity and Bannon’s company would show up in tax returns. Badolato told Kolfage in one text: ”Better than you or me lol’.
Bannon was arrested aboard a superyacht owned by Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui in Long Island Sound, off the Connecticut coast Thursday and charged in an indictment unsealed Thursday in Manhattan federal court.
Kolfage was arrested at his Florida home.
The investigation did not involve the FBI – but did involve the U.S. Postal Inspectors.
It was led by prosecutors from the public corruption unit of the United States Attorney’s office in Southern News York – the same unit which charged Jeffrey Esptein and arrested Ghislaine Maxwell.
All four indicted men face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
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