Bannon associate sentenced to more than 4 years for Trump border wall fraud

by Jacob Fuller

A decorated U.S. Air Force veteran who was an associate of Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon was sentenced on Wednesday to 4-1/4 years in prison after admitting to helping defraud donors to a campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border pursued by the former president.

Brian Kolfage, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan after pleading guilty last year to misappropriating funds for the “We Build the Wall” campaign. Torres also sentenced Andrew Badolato, 58, another former Bannon associate, to three years in prison following his guilty plea.

“The fraud perpetrated by Mr. Kolfage and Mr. Badolato went well beyond ripping off individual donors,” the judge said. “They hurt us all by eroding the public’s faith in the political process.”

Kolfage, who lost his legs and right hand in a rocket attack in Iraq, led the fundraising push alongside Bannon, who was also criminally charged in the case but received a presidential pardon from Trump during the final hours of his term.

Prosecutors said Kolfage took more than $350,000 and spent it on boat payments, jewelry and cosmetic surgery. He also pleaded guilty to tax charges.

“I made a promise not to personally benefit, not anyone else, and I broke that promise,” Kolfage said in court, at times wiping his nose and sniffling. “I have been humiliated by my poor decisions.”

Torres also ordered Kolfage to forfeit $17.9 million and pay $2.9 million in restitution.

Cesar de Castro, a lawyer for Kolfage, had proposed home detention, citing his client’s medical needs. Badolato’s lawyer Kelly Kramer sought three years of probation for his client, saying he was less culpable and cooperated with prosecutors.

Another defendant, Timothy Shea, 52, was convicted at trial in October. His sentencing is scheduled for June 13.

Despite being pardoned, Bannon still faces New York state money laundering and conspiracy charges over the wall under an indictment from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Bannon, 69, has pleaded not guilty. Trump’s pardon covered federal crimes but not state crimes.

Construction of a border wall was a key element of Trump’s hardline immigration policies during his presidency, supported by his fellow Republicans but opposed by Democrats and immigrant advocacy groups.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters