Steve Bannon charged with money laundering and conspiracy in New York

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon has been charged in New York with money laundering, conspiracy and scheme fraud in connection with his role in a fundraising effort to privately fund construction of the wall US-Mexico border crossing, according to the indictment released Thursday. .

The indictment includes two counts of second-degree money laundering and fourth-degree conspiracy. Bannon went to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office after being told in recent days that charges were imminent, sources familiar with the matter said.

Bannon faces charges of embezzling more than $1 million from the ‘We Build the Wall’ fundraising effort which promised to send all proceeds to underwriting the completion of the US border wall -Mexican to enrich himself and his associates, the 22-page indictment says.

The fundraising effort promised donors that its organizers would receive no compensation. But, according to the indictment, hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled through nonprofit entities, some controlled by Bannon, to pay a salary to Brian Kolfage, one of his associates.

Bannon walked into the district attorney’s office alongside his attorney, David Schoen, shouting over assembled TV cameras that he believed he faced a political prosecution that sought to undermine his far-right talk show , War Room, in the 60 days leading up to the 2022 midterms.

Bannon later appeared in Manhattan court in handcuffs and pleaded not guilty. He later walked out of court after being released without bail.

The state charges, led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York State Attorney General Letitia James, mirror the August 2020 federal indictment against Bannon and three co-defendants Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea in the effort which raised more than $25 million.

“Mr. Bannon took advantage of the political views of his donors to secure millions of dollars which he then embezzled. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends,” James said of the charges, where the count carries a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.

Bannon never stood trial after receiving a presidential pardon from Donald Trump that quashed the federal charges. But the pardons do not apply to state-level prosecutions, and the New York state charges mark significant legal peril for the architect of Trump’s 2016 election victory.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office began considering whether to prosecute Bannon almost immediately after receiving the pardon, a source with knowledge of the case said, and several Bannon’s close allies recently received subpoenas. to testify before a grand jury.

This office opened its case knowing that two others — Kolfage and Badolato — had pleaded guilty in the August 2020 federal case, and that Kolfage had admitted to the judge that he conspired to illegally receive donation money. made to the project.

The expected indictment comes weeks after Bannon was found guilty of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Bannon is expected to appeal this conviction.

Building a wall on the US-Mexico border has become a rallying cry for Trump during his presidency, and the charges suggest that Bannon and his co-defendants exploited the popularity of the project to dupe donors for their own benefit. Trump had promised that the wall would be paid for by Mexico.

“The defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, taking advantage of their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all this money would be spent on construction,” said Audrey Strauss, the American lawyer in Manhattan. at the time.

Developments in the federal case were closely watched, first because of Bannon’s involvement and how he was removed from a luxury yacht by federal agents, then after his pardon because no of the other three defendants received similar executive action from Trump.

According to the federal indictment, prosecutors said Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, and his co-defendants misrepresented that all money raised would be used “in carrying out our mission and of our goal” in order to convince Trump supporters to donate to the project.

Kolfage took more than $350,000 in donated funds and used the money to pay for home renovations, a luxury SUV, a boat, a golf cart, cosmetic surgery and jewelry, according to the indictment. Kolfage and Badolato both pleaded guilty to the charges.

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