Steve Bannon has surrendered to New York law enforcement officials after being indicted on fraud and money laundering charges related to funds allegedly raised to build a southern border wall.
Bannon, once an advisor to former President Donald Trump during his administration, was the co-founder of the news outlet Breitbart News and a political strategist who has been involved in domestic and international populist movements.
He is charged with improperly handling $25 million of funds donated to his organization, WeBuildTheWall Inc.
The group had been founded in order to privately fund the construction of a wall along the southern border to prevent unlawful migration.
The indictment claims that Bannon “solicited donations and raised money from donors throughout the United States … based on the false representation that none of the money donated to WeBuildTheWall, Inc. would be used to pay” the salary of the organization’s then-CEO, Brian Kolfage.
Kolfage allegedly admitted in text messages to receiving a salary of “$100k upfront then 20 [per] month.” The indictment outlines that Bannon supposedly used a system of nonprofits to funnel and launder donated money.
Bannon denounced the new charges, suggesting, “This political hit job is to try to stop and intimidate people about not just building the wall, but what sovereignty means.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James defended the case, claiming, “Mr. Bannon took advantage of his donors’ political views to secure millions of dollars which he then misappropriated. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends.”
Others involved in WeBuildTheWall have already been convicted on fraud-related charges, and Bannon himself has been the subject of a previous federal indictment related to the WeBuildTheWall campaign. However, former President Donald Trump issued a preemptive pardon for Bannon, effectively ending the federal case against him.
Brian Kolfage pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. WeBuildTheWall associates Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea were also charged, but the latter’s case ended in a mistrial after the jury could not unanimously agree on his guilt.
While Trump’s pardon ended the federal charges against Bannon, it offered no protection from a state pressing the issue as New York has.
Recently, Bannon was convicted by a federal jury on two charges of contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol protests.