An Iraq War veteran who led a campaign to raise money to build former President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall will plead guilty to defrauding donors and violating U.S. tax law.
Brian Kolfage, a Florida resident and decorated Air Force veteran, has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors who have accused him of fraud related to the “We Build the Wall” campaign, court filings by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed Wednesday.
According to Reuters, Kolfage will enter his plea on April 21 before U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres. The government had charged Kolfage, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and two other defendants with fraud crimes related to the We Build the Wall campaign in August 2020.
The campaign was founded by Kolfage, a triple amputee, in December 2018. He solicited donations from Trump supporters, promising that he would “not take a penny” and use every dollar to pay for the completion of Trump’s border wall. Prosecutors say that after raising more than $25 million, Kolfage stole more than $350,000 and purchased a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, and cosmetic surgery, among other expenses.
He was charged with wire fraud and filing false tax returns. The wire fraud conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, Reuters reports.
Charges filed against Bannon last May were dismissed by Judge Torres after Bannon received a presidential pardon from Trump in the 11th hour of his presidency. Bannon had plead not guilty to fraud charges involving the We Build the Wall campaign.
Court records reviewed by Reuters indicate that Kolfage’s co-defendant, Andrew Badolato, will also enter a guilty plea on April 21.
The other defendant, Timohty Shea, had initially agreed to also plead guilty but changed his mind, prosecutors said last week.
“Mr. Shea is exercising his constitutional right to a fair trial,” his lawyer John Meringolo wrote in an email on Wednesday.
In the August 2020 indictment, acting U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said the accused “defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction.”
“While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle,” said Strauss.