Two men indicted alongside former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to defrauding donors of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a border wall scheme.
Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kolfage also pleaded guilty to two counts of filing a false tax return and one count of wire fraud in connection with filing a false tax return.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime,” Kolfage told the judge. Both men will be sentenced on September 6.
The men are accused by federal prosecutors of using hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to an online crowdfunding campaign called We Build the Wall for personal expenses, among other things.
Bannon, who pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing, was pardoned by then-President Trump in his final days in office. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is investigating Bannon for the same conduct and whether it violated state law. The pardon only covered federal crimes.
Timothy Shea, a fourth man charged in the fundraising effort, has pleaded not guilty. Last month he indicated to the judge that he would plead guilty, but changed his mind and is set to go to trial next month.
Bannon and 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.
But instead, according to prosecutors, Bannon, through a nonprofit 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.
Kolfage, an Air Force veteran and Purple Heart recipient who had both his legs and his right arm amputated after being injured in a 2004 explosion in Iraq, had previously helped run several right-wing Facebook pages and websites that shared conspiracy theories and false political news.