FILE PHOTO: Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui (also known as Miles Kwok) appear at a news conference in New York, New York, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding donors of an online fundraising scheme for “We Build the Wall.” Bannon and three other defendants are accused of taking money intended for building President Donald Trump’s promised wall on the southern border, and using it instead for personal gain. The fundraising campaign presented itself as a “volunteer organization” and vowed that 100% of the proceeds would go toward building the wall.

Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea, face charges that include one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; each charge could result in a maximum 20-year prison sentence. Kolfage secretly received over $350,000 in funds. Bannon allegedly received over $1 million. The “We Build the Wall” crowdfunding campaign raised over $25 million in total.

President Trump distanced himself from the project Thursday, claiming he didn’t know anything about it. However, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told the New York Times in January 2019 that Trump had given the project his “blessing.”

Bannon is one of six of President Trump’s campaign associates to face criminal charges, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, and Roger Stone. Former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted last year in the Justice Department’s investigation on Russian election interference.

Investigators are also scrutinizing GTV Media, a company connected to Bannon and to Chinese dissident and businessman Guo Wengui, after the company raised $300 million in the spring from a private offering.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Stephen Bannon Arrested, Charged with Fraud by NY Prosecutor – National Review – 8/20/2020
Former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon and three other defendants were arrested on Thursday morning and charged with fraud by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bannon, along with Brian Kolfage, Timothy Shea, and Andrew Badolato, were charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to “We Build the Wall,” an online crowdfunding campaign that has raised over $25 million in funds for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. […] The indictment is a stunning turn of events for Bannon, who was the architect of President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and upset victory over Hillary Clinton.

USPS Just Helped Get Steve Bannon Arrested for Fraud – Vice – 8/20/2020
Bannon and three others are accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars from an online “Build the Wall” campaign to a man named Brian Kolfage, the Southern District of New York said in a statement Thursday. […] n a bizarre twist, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service, played a key role in helping New York prosecutors investigate Trump’s former top adviser. Strauss even gave the division, also known as the Postal Inspectors or USPIS, a special shoutout in her statement.

Steve Bannon Indicted In DOJ Crackdown On ‘We Build The Wall’ Fundraiser – The Daily Wire – 8/20/2020
Each man involved is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. […] Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran, worked with Bannon to sell We Build The Wall’s mission and raise massive amounts of money, much of which was then used to pay for the men’s lifestyles and settle personal expenses, according to the SDNY.

Steve Bannon Finally Gets His Walls – Gizmodo – 8/20/2020
Kolfage allegedly kept $350,000 in funds for personal use while Bannon allegedly rerouted $1 million to a nonprofit and spent hundreds of thousands on personal expenses. Bannon was arrested while on a boat off the coast of Connecticut, unnamed law enforcement sources told ABC4 New York. Agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which investigates crimes like wire and mail fraud, performed the arrest, according to several reports.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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