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Donald Trump aide charged in border wall scam

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Former top Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon was criminally charged in Latest York on Thursday with a scheme to fraudulently funnel and obscure salary payments to the CEO of a non-profit fundraising effort to construct a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. said that Bannon “acted because the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud 1000’s of donors across the country — including a whole lot of Manhattan residents.”

Bragg said that Bannon, “We Construct the Wall” Chief Executive Officer Brian Kolfage and others involved in that campaign had repeatedly claimed that Kolfage wouldn’t be paid “a penny” for his work.

“But as a substitute of pennies, [Kolfage] received greater than $250,000 in a salary fund by donations,” Bragg said.

“At the very least $140,000 of which, we allege, was laundered by Stephen Bannon,” said Bragg, who spoke several hours after Bannon surrendered at Manhattan Criminal Court to face a grand jury indictment, which also charged WeBuildtheWall Inc.

The district attorney said that Bannon throughout 2019 directed the We Construct the Wall campaign to pay a non-profit that Bannon controlled “tens of 1000’s of dollars at a time.”

“Bannon’s not-for-profit then paid a salary to [Kolfage], thereby obscuring the source of the funds, in direct contradiction to the various guarantees made by Bannon, We Construct the Wall, and other associates on this scheme,” Bragg said.

A handcuffed Bannon, 68, appeared later Thursday in court for arraignment on six criminal counts, which include money laundering, conspiracy and scheme to defraud.

He pleaded not guilty through his lawyer, David Schoen.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a news conference after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon arrived to give up, in Latest York, U.S., September 8, 2022. 

Caitlin Ochs | Reuters

A prosecutor asked Judge Juan Merchan to order Bannon, as a condition of his release on bail to instantly give up any passports and to not apply for any recent passports throughout the case.

“He is not going anywhere,” Schoen said as he agreed to those conditions, which were imposed by the judge.

“He intends to fight these charges all the way in which,” the lawyer said.

Merchan ordered Bannon to return to court on Oct. 3 for a standing hearing, and said he expected Bannon to look as well for all subsequent proceedings.

Bannon faces a possible maximum sentence of 5 to fifteen years in prison if convicted of cash laundering, probably the most serious charge within the indictment. He faces two counts of that charge.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon stands to have his handcuffs removed for his arraignment on the Latest York Criminal Courthouse in Latest York, U.S., September 8, 2022 on this courtroom sketch.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

The brand new indictment comes greater than two years after Bannon was arrested on federal charges that he and three other men defrauded donors who gave $25 million or more to fund the We Construct the Wall campaign. That campaign supported the intention of then-President Donald Trump to construct a wall along the southern border of america.

Trump pardoned Bannon in that federal case on his last night before leaving office in January 2021.

Presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes, and don’t protect people from prosecution on state charges just like the ones Bannon now faces in Manhattan.

Kolfage and one other man, Andrew Badolato, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the wall scheme in April. They’re scheduled to be sentenced in December.

The federal trial of a 3rd defendant in that case, Timothy Shea, ended with a deadlocked jury in June. Shea is scheduled to be retried next month.

Not one of the three men in that federal case were charged in Thursday’s indictment against Bannon.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to former President Donald Trump arrives on the NY District Attorneys office to show himself in on September 08, 2022 in Latest York City.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Latest York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office participated within the investigation, said, “There can’t be one algorithm for on a regular basis people and one other for the rich and powerful – all of us must play by the identical rules and must obey the law.”

“Mr. Bannon took advantage of his donors’ political beliefs to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars which he then misappropriated. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to complement himself and his friends,” James said.

As he walked into Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday morning, Bannon told a crowd of reporters and gawkers that the brand new prosecution against him is politically motivated.

“That is an irony, on the very day the mayor of this city has a delegation down on the border, they’re persecuting people here,” Bannon shouted over quite a few hecklers jeering him.

He was referring to Latest York City Mayor Eric Adams having dispatched a bunch of officials to the southern border earlier this week to satisfy with Border Patrol agents. That trip was a part of an ongoing feud the Democrat Adams has with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, who has sent buses stuffed with migrants to Latest York City.

One onlooker yelled at Bannon: “Stop hurting America, you greasy, two-bit grifter!”

Bannon in July was convicted in U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., of two counts of contempt of Congress. That case stemmed from his refusal to testify before the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters.

“We expect that case to be turned over on appeal,” Schoen said Thursday during Bannon’s arraignment in Latest York.

Earlier this week, Bannon told NBC News that Latest York authorities “decided to pursue phony charges against me 60 days before the midterm election.”

“That is nothing greater than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system,” he said.

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