‘We Build The Wall’ Co-Founder Kolfage Indicted in Tax Case
(Bloomberg) -- Brian Kolfage, whose work with Stephen Bannon to raise money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall resulted in a federal fraud indictment last year, faces new tax fraud charges.
Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran, was indicted in Pensacola, Florida, this week for filing a false tax return and fraud. Federal prosecutors said that Kolfage received hundreds of thousands of dollars from different organizations, including We Build the Wall Inc., which he deposited in his personal bank account.
“We will investigate and prosecute those who falsely misrepresent their income -- whether by traditional evasion or failing to disclose charitable contributions diverted to their personal gain,” Jason Coody, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said Thursday in a statement.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Kolfage, 39, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Pensacola on May 27. His attorney, Harvey A. Steinberg, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A resident of Miramar Beach, Florida, Kolfage was serving in the Air Force in Iraq in 2004 when he lost both legs and his right hand during a rocket attack.
In August, a New York grand jury charged Kolfage, Bannon and two others with defrauding donors to “We Build the Wall,” a private campaign that raised $25 million to support former President Donald Trump’s 2016 pledge to build a border barrier.
Bannon, a former White House strategist, was pardoned by Trump on his last day in office in January, but the New York case against Kolfage and the other two defendants is ongoing. Since then, Letitia James, New York’s top law enforcement officer, has been working with Manhattan prosecutors to investigate whether Bannon defrauded contributors to the wall fund-raising campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Bannon isn’t charged in the Florida tax case, which was unsealed Thursday.
In the new indictment it’s alleged that Kolfage filed a 2019 tax return that listed his total income as $63,574, when he knew the true amount was “materially in excess of that amount.” The wire fraud count alleges he failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars that he received from the wall campaign.
Kolfage was the co-founder and public face of the wall campaign. He and the other defendants in the New York case said he would accept no money from the project, yet he secretly took more than $350,000 to fund a lavish lifestyle, and Bannon pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal expenses, prosecutors said. Kolfage has pleaded not guilty in that case and denied wrongdoing.
Those defendants began devising ways to launder funds for their own use soon after launching the charity, prosecutors said. They allegedly made outsize payments to contractors who kicked some of the money back to them and round-tripped some of the funds through a shell company. The effort resulted in about five miles (eight kilometers) of border fencing in two different locations in Texas and New Mexico.
The case is U.S. v. Kolfage, 21-cr-29, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida (Pensacola).
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