Authorities in New York have accused Steve Bannon, who was a former political adviser to former President Donald Trump, of defrauding donors to the “We’re Building the Wall” fundraiser to build a wall along the border between the US and to create Mexico.
The indictment charged Bannon and “We’re Building the Wall” with two counts of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison. There are additional criminal charges of conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud.
Bannon turned himself in to authorities in Manhattan on Thursday.
“The allegations are sixty days until the election,” he told reporters after his appearance.
“It’s ironic that on the day the mayor of this city has a delegation at the border, they’re harassing the people they’re trying to stop at the border,” Bannon said of the New York fact-finding delegation. Following Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision, Mayor Eric Adams sent a letter to Texas. Bus immigrants to New York.
The charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office are similar to the federal charges. Trump pardoned Bannon and accused Bannon and “We Built the Wall” of defrauding 430 Manhattan donors out of $33,600. Across New York state, the indictment says more than 11,000 donors were defrauded of more than $730,000.
Trump’s pardon applies only to the federal case and does not rule out state charges.
“Making a profit by lying to donors is a crime and you can be held accountable in New York,” the Manhattan attorney general said of the charges. “According to the indictments, Stephen Bannon acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country — including hundreds of Manhattan residents.”
Letitia James, Attorney General of New York, said: “Mr. Bannon used the political views of his donors to embezzle millions of dollars. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friend. Investigation.
Two Florida men, an Air Force veteran and venture capitalist, charged Bannon in the federal case and pleaded guilty in April to the crime for their role in a scheme to defraud “We Built the Wall” donors.
Brian Colvage and Andrew Patolato are charged with Bannon in the scheme. The fourth defendant, Timothy Shea, filed suit and it ended in a mistrial.
Golfage and Batolato are not named in the state’s indictment, but they are listed on Conspirators 1 and 2, which may have helped Manhattan prosecutors build their case against Bannon.
The quartet reportedly used some of the $25 million raised through the “We Build the Wall” program to cover personal expenses, including luxury SUVs, a golf cart and plastic surgery.
“The defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors and used their interest in funding the border wall to raise millions of dollars under the false pretense that all of this money would be spent on construction,” said Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney at the time. Fees were announced in 2020.
“My only goal is to collect money and donate it to the federal government,” Colvage told the judge in the federal case.
“You promised 100% of the money would be used to build this wall? Is that correct?” Judge Annalisa Torres asked.
“Yes, your honor,” replied Colvage.
“You kept so much money with you and you didn’t tell the IRS that you received the money. Is that correct?” Torres asked.
“Yes, your honor,” replied Colvage.
Bannon’s surrender Thursday makes him the third defendant pardoned by Trump to face charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Paul Manafort, the one-time Trump campaign chairman, is accused of directing a two-year scheme to obtain more than $19 million in residential mortgage loans based on fraudulent filings with various banks. The New York Court of Appeals eventually threw out the case, making it very similar to Manafort’s federal conviction, and therefore a double jeopardy.
In State v. Bannon expected that “double jeopardy” would not apply because the jury had never met to consider federal fraud charges over “We’re Building the Wall.”
Former New York Observer editor Ken Corson, associate Jared Kushner and reporter Rudy Giuliani have been pardoned by Trump in a federal cyberstalking case. Curzon eventually pleaded guilty to two nationwide felonies accusing him of spying on his ex-wife’s computer.
Curzon will return to court next week so the judge can ensure he complies with community service.
Trump pardoned Curzon in his final moments in office, but then-Manhattan Attorney General C. Vance announced an indictment seven months later.
According to the indictment, in 2015 Curzon secretly installed spyware from his Observer’s work computer onto his ex-wife’s computer.
“We will not accept the president’s pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for well-connected New Yorkers,” Vance said in a statement when the charges against Gerson were announced in 2021.