- Steve Bannon left a federal courthouse on Thursday in Manhattan, New York, after pleading not guilty to fraud charges in connection with a fundraising scheme aimed at building portions of the wall along the US-Mexico border.
- Bannon told news reporters gathered outside: “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”
- Bannon and three others were arrested on a yacht in Connecticut hours earlier.
- They were charged with fraud in connection with the private “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign, which pulled in more than $25 million. They are accused of misusing the funds.
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After leaving a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Thursday, Steve Bannon claimed his arrest was about silencing those who wanted to build a wall on the US southern border with Mexico, CNN reported.
“This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall,” Bannon told reporters gathered outside.
Hours earlier, Bannon, Brian Kolfage, and two others were charged with fraud in connection with the private “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign, Business Insider previously reported.
They face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in the alleged scheme.
Prosecutors said the four were arrested on accusations of plotting to defraud donors out of $25 million in a fundraising campaign reportedly launched to help fund President Donald Trump’s wall on the US-Mexico border.
Additionally, prosecutors claimed that Bannon used a nonprofit to take more than $1 million from the We Build the Wall fundraiser to “secretly” pay Kolfage and cover his own personal expenses.
“As alleged, the defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on 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,” Acting Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. “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.”
Bannon pleaded not guilty. His bail included a $5 million bond to be secured by $1.75 million in cash or real property, and he is prohibited from traveling on private airplanes, yachts, or boats without permission from the court.