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Federal prosecutors in New York just indicted President Trump’s former campaign chief executive and White House strategist Steve Bannon for fraud — with a surprise assist from investigators working for the U.S. Postal Service.
Bannon and three others are accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars from an online “Build the Wall” campaign to a man named Brian Kolfage, the Southern District of New York said in a statement Thursday.
All four men allegedly profited from the scheme, prosecutors said. They were arrested Thursday morning.
“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,” said Audrey Strauss, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, 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,” Strauss said.
In a bizarre twist, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service, played a key role in helping New York prosecutors investigate Trump’s former top adviser.
Strauss even gave the division, also known as the Postal Inspectors or USPIS, a special shoutout in her statement. “We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case,” she said.
The involvement of the postal service in bringing charges against a former close Trump adviser comes with jaw-dropping irony: Critics have recently accused the Trump administration of attempting to undermine the mail carrier in an attempt to fracture the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
Inspector-in-Charge of the Postal Inspectors, Philip Bartlett, said in a statement that the indictments should warn “other fraudsters” that no one is above the law — including a “millionaire political strategist” like Bannon.
“The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds,” Bartlett said. “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.”
Cover: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon gives a speech during the Respect for Life Prayer Breakfast at Genet Manor in Dickson City, Pa., Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Jake Danna Stevens/The Times-Tribune via AP)