Andrew Badolato, a Sarasota man with ties to Steve Bannon, a 2016 campaign manager for Donald Trump and later Trump's chief White House strategist, was arrested Thursday and charged with wire fraud and money laundering, along with Bannon and two others.
According to a press release issued by the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York, Badolato, Bannon, Brian Kolfage and Timothy Shea raised more than $25 million from hundreds of thousands of donors through an online crowdfunding campaign called "We Build the Wall." That money was supposed to be spent on constructing a border wall between the United States and Mexico, but, according to the Attorney's Office, was instead misused.
Kolfage allegedly took more than $350,000 in funds for his personal use and Bannon received more than $1 million through a nonprofit he controlled. To conceal the payments, the four men routed the money through Bannon's nonprofit and another shell company using "fake invoices and sham 'vendor' arrangements," according to the Attorney's Office press release.
"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 acting U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss, according to the release.
"As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth," said Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett, according to the release.
Bannon and Badolato's relationship first came to light in 2016, when Bannon registered to vote at Badolato's address on Casey Key, despite no evidence that he actually lived there.