• By The Financial District


New York federal prosecutors on Thursday (Friday, August 21, 2020 in Manila) charged President Donald Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon and three others with defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of a fundraising campaign purportedly aimed at supporting Trump's border wall, Erica Orden and Kara Scannell reported for CNN on August 21, 2020.

Bannon, 66, was arrested at 7:30 a.m. Thursday (7:30 p.m. in Manila) near Westbrook, Connecticut, on the yacht of exiled Chinese dissident Guo Wengui, according to two law enforcement officials. Federal agents, officials from the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Coast Guard, assisted, officials said.

During an initial court appearance in New York later Thursday, Bannon pleaded not guilty and was set to be released on bail including a $5 million bond to be secured by $1.75 million in cash or real property. As part of his bail conditions, he will be prohibited from travel on private airplanes, yachts or boats without permission from the court. As he exited the federal courthouse, Bannon removed his mask and waved at supporters before confronting a group of reporters. "This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall," Bannon said.

The four men were indicted for allegedly using hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to an online crowdfunding campaign called We Build the Wall for personal expenses, among other things. Bannon and another defendant, Brian 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 unsealed Thursday. But instead, according to prosecutors, Bannon, through a non-profit 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. Bannon, Kolfage and the other two defendants, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.