Bannon Could Face Unpardonable State Fraud Charges
Steve Bannon was one of the 143 people who Donald Trump pardoned in his last 24 hours in office. The former Trump adviser’s stay-out-of-jail-free card let him off the hook for the federal fraud charges he and three others were facing for having allegedly skimmed millions from a crowdfunding campaign to help build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Presidential pardons, however, do not cover criminal charges brought by states, which is why the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is considering bringing state charges against Bannon in connection with the fundraising scheme. In August 2020 Bannon and three others were charged by federal prosecutors in New York with fraud for falsely claiming in fundraising material that they would not take any compensation in operating their “We Build the Wall” campaign.
Bannon is alleged to have siphoned more than $1 million in donations, keeping much of it for himself and funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Brian Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran with whom he operated the campaign. Also charged in the scheme were Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea. Kolfage, Badolato and Shea were not pardoned by Trump and still face the federal charges, some of which carry prison terms of 20 years. Since Bannon was pardoned he must cooperate with law enforcement and could be forced to testify at the three men’s trials.
Prosecutors alleged that the four men routed payments from a crowdfunding campaign through the nonprofit wall campaign and to a shell company and disguised the payments with fake invoices. Kolfage allegedly used his share of the payments to pay for “home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt,” according to federal prosecutors.
Kolfage specifically allegedly used his share for “home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt.
The Washington Post reports that the state effort is being led by investigators in the Major Economic Crimes Bureau office under District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. They are examining if state charges can be brought against Bannon because the financial institutions used to carry out the scheme have headquarters or locations in New York City.
Prosecutors alleged that Bannon and Kolfage along with two others — Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea — routed payments from the crowdfunding campaign through the nonprofit and another shell company, disguising them with fake invoices to help keep their personal pay secret.