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The veteran who launched a multi-million dollar effort to build a border wall has agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges

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Brian Kolfage, an Iraq War veteran who launched a multi-million dollar crowdfunding effort to build a private border wall, agreed to plead guilty to fraud charges after prosecutors said he had surreptitiously taken hundreds of thousands of dollars to fundraising.

Prior to starting We Build the Wall, Kolfage made a living peddling right-wing misinformation on social media, which eventually led to him being banned from Facebook. In a letter filed in the Southern District of New York, federal prosecutors said that in addition to the attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges, Kolfage also agreed to plead guilty to the federal lying charges. on his 2019 taxes.

According to prosecutors, Kolfage first claimed to have earned $63,574 that year and then filed a correction claiming $300,000, but officials claimed that Kolfage’s earnings for that year “substantially exceeded that amount.”

Kolfage raised the funds despite claiming he would not earn “a penny in salary or compensation” for the massive crowdfunding effort, but federal prosecutors alleged that he and other members of the organization had staged a scheme in which he secretly took over $350,000 from donations. using non-profit organizations and shell companies.

Steve Bannon, a top aide to former President Donald Trump, has also been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. According to the indictment, Bannon had received at least $1 million from the alleged nonprofit. In the final hours of his presidency, however, Trump pardoned Bannon.

The We Build the Wall campaign has raised more than $25 million on GoFundMe in what was billed as a private effort to help the Trump administration build a wall along the southern border.

But the effort immediately raised questions, including about Kolfage, who had started other crowdfunding efforts but left a trail of alleged benefactors who said they never received the pledged donations.

With the money raised, Kolfage started a non-profit organization named We Build the Wall which was supposed to work with private contractors to build a wall on private land. The organization eventually launched two construction efforts with the Fisher Sand & Gravel Company, based in North Dakota, Texas and New Mexico.

It also attracted a slew of conservative and right-wing figures to the site, including Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, who made an appearance and spoke to supporters alongside Kolfage on a fundraising day at Sunland. Park, New Mexico.

Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, served as We Build the Wall’s general counsel and David Clarke, a former Milwaukee County sheriff and conservative pundit, served on its board of directors. At one point, Kolfage also claimed that Erik Prince, the former founder of military contractor Blackwater, handled construction site safety.

The group also attracted extremist figures, including a militant group whose leaders also claimed to provide security at the New Mexico construction site.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the militant group Oath Keepers, who faces seditious conspiracy charges for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, was also given a personal tour of one of the projects.

Kolfage also claimed to have direct access to Trump’s White House, tweeting a copy of an invitation but declining to provide details of his visit. His wife posted photos on Instagram with their children from the event.

After Kolfage was indicted, Trump Jr. and Trump administration officials sought to distance themselves from the veteran.

The first wall, in Sunland Park, New Mexico, immediately pitted Kolfage and We Build the Wall against city officials, who claimed no permits had been issued for the half-mile wall that was suddenly erected in the desert.

Meanwhile, Kolfage bragged on Twitter how the wall was erected quickly to catch the city off guard and leveled unsubstantiated corruption charges against local officials.

We Build the Wall also clashed with the International Boundary and Water Commission after digging part of the wall’s construction on federal land, despite repeated warnings from authorities that permits were needed.

The result was a half-mile wall with a gate that had to be left open during the day and only required immigrants to walk around the structure.

A second wall was built in Mission, Texas. The effort also sparked a lawsuit against We Build the Wall, this time by a neighboring butterfly sanctuary which accused Kolfage of defamation after he tweeted a number of baseless allegations, including that the sanctuary’s director was unaware of the “sex trade crawling” and the corpses on his property. .

The project’s contractor, Fisher Sand & Gravel, also claimed that We Build the Wall suddenly pulled out of the $8 million project and only paid $1.5 million for it.

Kolfage is expected to amend his plea on April 21.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the plea deal reached with Kolfage.

Kolfage’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The federal charge of attempt and conspiracy to commit wire fraud could result in a 20-year prison sentence.

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