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Veteran facing border wall scam charges with Steve Bannon: 'Not a penny' was taken

By Tara Copp, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON - An Air Force veteran who was arrested last month on charges of conspiring with former presidential adviser Steve Bannon and two others to scam donors supporting their private effort to build a border wall said on Monday that "not a penny" of the $25 million raised was taken to fund a "lavish" lifestyle.

In an exclusive interview with McClatchy, retired Senior Airman Brian Kolfage also said that while the financial accounts of "We Build the Wall" are currently frozen due to the indictment, and construction work has stopped, attorneys for the organization are trying to get those funds unfrozen and the wall restarted.

"All work on the wall project has ceased at this point," Kolfage said. "There are lawyers who are involved who are working to get things opened, because what they did was a significant overreach to try and shut the wall project down.

"So we're not going to allow it, we're going to fire it back up and get things rolling again," he said. "It's just the state of New York that is doing this. We can operate in 49 other states."

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York charged Kolfage, Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for telling donors that 100% of funds raised from their "We Build the Wall" organization would go to constructing a border wall.

The indictment alleges that of the $25 million raised, more than $350,000 was illegally paid to Kolfage to support a "lavish" lifestyle and $1 million was paid to Bannon.


"Not a penny of the donations went toward anything that was said in the indictment. Not a penny. We did not take money, at all, from donors to buy a boat, to pay for lavish things that they say, for home improvements, for cars, for none of that. Everything in that indictment I either owned previously or bought with my own money," Kolfage said.

The arresting officers had driven down from New York and did not allow Kolfage, who is a triple amputee from the Iraq War, to put on his prosthetic legs when they showed up at his home in Sandestin, Florida, at about 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 20, he said.

Instead, Kolfage said he had to pull himself into their vehicle from the ground, a humiliating experience that his two young children watched. Kolfage lost his right arm below the elbow and both legs after a rocket landed just feet from him at Balad Air Base in Iraq in 2004.

Kolfage said he is now planning to sue the law enforcement agency and the New York court for civil rights violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


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