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Former Trump adviser arrested over border wall fraud scheme

Steve Bannon gave himself up to New York authorities to be indicted.

Steve Bannon is a right-wing podcaster and adviser who was once a part of former President Donald Trump’s team. He has been charged with multiple offences in connection to a crowdfunding scam scheme where he allegedly conned donors out money for a private wall at the border. 

On Thursday, Bannon was taken into custody and brought before a Manhattan court. He pleaded not guilty for the following charges: two felony money laundering counts, two conspiracy counts, and one fraud count. According to media reports, he was eventually released from jail without bail. 

An indictment unsealed before Bannon’s court appearance outlined the allegations against him, claiming he helped to defraud donors during his work with the ‘We Build the Wall’ organization, a non-profit which aimed to raise funds for the construction of a privately-owned barrier along the US-Mexico border. At the time of the alleged fraud, Bannon served as chairman of the group’s advisory board.

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While the campaign ultimately pulled in some $25 million, prosecutors say Bannon funneled more than $100,000 to the group’s president, Brian Kolfage, despite his repeated vows not to accept a salary from the org. According to indictment, some of these payments were made through Bannon’s third-party companies.

“The simple truth is that it is a crime to profit off the backs of donors by making false pretenses,”After announcing his charges, Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney, told reporters that he had spoken to the media on Thursday. “We are here to say today in once voice, in Manhattan and in New York, you will be held accountable for defrauding donors.”

In a 2020 federal indictment, Bannon faced the same charges. He pleaded guilty to these charges before Trump pardoned him. But, the presidential pardons only apply to federal charges. This means that New York prosecutors are free to continue with the fraud case.

Separately, Trump Campaign aide and former White House strategist were charged with contempt of Congress. He was convicted after refusing to appear before Congress to give evidence about January 6th 2021 at the US Capitol Building.

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