EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Two of the men involved in “We Build the Wall” that built the private border wall in Sunland Park plead guilty Thursday to wire fraud and money laundering.
“We Build the Wall” raised over $25 million in donations to build the border barrier. In the indictment it says that Brian Kolfage took over $350,000 in donated funds for personal use.
It also states that Steve Bannon who you may remember was pardoned by former President Donald Trump took over $1 million in donated funds to secretly pay Kolfage as well as for personal expenses.
The four men named in the indictment included Kolfage, Bannon, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea. Kolfage and Badolato were the ones who plead guilty, Bannon was pardoned and a trail date has not been set yet for Shea.
The indictment says all four of those men made up a scheme to conceal payments by using fake invoices and fake vendor arraignments.
“We Build the Wall” visited El Paso to raise money for the wall, and the former Chair of the El Paso Republican Party says he was there for the event. Speaking with KTSM 9 News about the indictment.
“I’m like everybody else, if I would have known that they weren’t living what they were saying we probably wouldn’t have supported it. But again a lot of people did they raised a lot of money and they’re guilty, they’re guilty, they need to pay the price,” said Adolpho Telles, the former chair for the El Paso Republican Party.
Telles says they were contacted when “We Build the Wall” was coming to El Paso but they had not met any of the individuals.
“Other than visiting with them on the phone until we actually showed up there to celebrate with them to see what we could do to support their cause I had never met any of these individuals. We’d gotten information about them because obviously what they were doing was very public,” said Telles.
And while he does not condone the taking of donation money, Telles does say he believes what “We Build the Wall” said the money was going toward was a good thing.
“They built that wall in an area where the core of engineers said you couldn’t do it because of how steep it was so there were a lot of positives things that were coming out of there, but the fact that they made promises that they were not keeping is disappointing,” said Telles.
The indictment also said that Kolfage repeatedly and falsely assured the public that the donated funds would be used to build the border barrier.
“Not take a penny in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised… will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose” because as Bannon publicly stated, “we’re a volunteer organization.”Indictment
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