Steve Bannon extradited to New York on border fraud charges

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Trump’s top former strategist Steve Bannon turned himself in to the Manhattan district attorney’s office Thursday morning to face expected federal fraud charges related to his role in the “We Build the Wall” fundraising effort.

Bannon arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and blasted the expected indictment as a political prosecution that comes 60 days before the 2022 midterm elections.

Bannon and his lawyer, David Schoen, are expected to meet with the district attorney’s office for about five hours and then go to court for an initial appearance, where he will likely be released on his own recognizance.

The move by the Manhattan attorney’s office was quietly communicated to Bannon in recent days, sources said about the indictment, which remains sealed.

Related: Donald Trump pardons Steve Bannon amid latest acts of presidency

Bannon is expected to face fraud charges alleging he siphoned more than $1 million in personal expenses from the “We Build the Wall” fundraising effort that promised to send all proceeds to take responsibility for completing the U.S. border wall -Mexico.

The state charges are expected to mirror an earlier federal indictment that also charged three others — disabled veterans Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea — with defrauding donors in the online crowdfunding program that raised more than $25 million, according to court filings.

Bannon received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump in the final days of his administration that dropped federal charges. But the pardon does not apply to state-level prosecutions, and the New York state charges pose a significant legal risk for the architect of Trump’s 2016 election victory.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office began considering whether to bring a case against Bannon almost immediately after the pardon, a source with knowledge of the matter said, and several close allies of Bannon were recently subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

That office opened its case with knowledge that two others — Kolfage and Badolato — had pleaded guilty in the August 2020 federal case and that Kolfage had admitted to a judge that he conspired to illegally receive money from donations made in the project.

The expected indictment comes weeks after Bannon was convicted of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Bannon is expected to appeal that conviction.

Building a wall on the US-Mexico border became a rallying cry for Trump throughout his 2016 campaign — overseen by Bannon — and his presidency, and the charges suggest Bannon and his co-defendants took advantage of popularity of the project to deceive donors for their own profit. Trump had promised that the wall would be paid for by Mexico.

“The defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors by exploiting 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,” said Audrey Strauss, U.S. attorney in Manhattan. . at that time.

Developments in the federal case have been closely watched, first because of Bannon’s involvement and how he was pulled from a luxury yacht by federal agents, and then after his pardon because none of the other three defendants received similar executive action from Trump.

According to the federal indictment, prosecutors said Bannon and his co-defendants misrepresented that all money raised would be used “to carry out our mission and purpose” in order to persuade Trump supporters to donate to the project.

The fundraising effort brought in more than $25 million — so Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, pumped in more than $1 million through a nonprofit he controlled to help pay Kolfage and for personal expenses, the indictment says. .

Kolfage took more than $350,000 in donations and used that money to pay for home renovations, a luxury SUV, a boat, a golf cart, cosmetic surgery and jewelry, the indictment says. Kolfage and Badolato both pleaded guilty to the charges.

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