The founder of a failed private border wall crowdfunding effort just got hit with a grand jury indictment in the Northern District of Florida for tax charges linked to hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars of income for the project he once told Occupy Democrats by email he would “never take a penny from.” (indictment embedded below)
Brian Kolfage is already facing money laundering conspiracy and fraud charges in the Southern District of New York for skimming cash from WeBuildTheWall, a 501c4 social welfare organization he founded to build private border wall segments based on a $20 million GoFundMe campaign starting in late 2018.
Now, federal prosecutors in Tallahassee have unsealed three new charges related to Kolfage’s scheme to rake in a six-figure income from MAGA donors along with Steve Bannon, whom Donald Trump pardoned at the end of his term for his role in the scheme.
Allegedly, the disabled Air Force vet Kolfage filed a false tax return only declaring $64,000 in income, used multiple shell companies to disguise hundreds of thousands in payments that he lied to the public about receiving, and by transmitting his return electronically, prosecutors say he committed wire fraud. Tax crimes are generally pursued by the IRS Criminal Investigation unit.
He and his alleged co-conspirators are going to set a trial date on the first set of charges by July 15th, except for the former Trump campaign manager Bannon. Steve Bannon is still facing investigations by state officials in both Florida’s AgLaw Department and by New York’s Attorney General, as well as the Manhattan DA’s office, reports the Post, despite winning a reprieve on the federal level.
At the end of 2018, the WeBuildTheWall saga began when the 45th President threw our government into an unexpected shutdown at the end of the year by demanding border wall funding his administration hadn’t asked for until Congress had passed the budget and recessed for the holidays. In the throes of national upheaval, with over a million federal employees being involuntarily furloughed, Brian Kolfage had an idea to reverse his fortunes in the wake of Facebook banning his conspiracy theory website known as Right-Wing News.
Unfortunately for him, a fellow Trump supporter spotted the veteran’s opulent lifestyle and tipped off this reporter, leading to a series of reports and investigations that began in Florida and ultimately led to the first indictment of the alleged wall swindler. The crux of the first round of charges revolved around Kolfage’s lies about taking no money from the project, when he was traveling in a $670,000 “fishing boat.”
In between its unlikely beginning with a $20 million dollar fundraising haul, which even Kolfage thought he would have to return initially, and the disgraceful conclusion of operations, the group built two small border segments. They erected one small segment directly in New Mexico and one indirectly in Texas alongside the Rio Grande and only spent $8 million or so on wall construction. The ongoing alleged fraud didn’t stop the Department of Homeland Security from spending months in conversations with the wall group’s highly paid former General Counsel Kris Kobach about trying to integrate their efforts into the former administration’s formal border wall plans. When Bannon, Kolfage, and two others besides Kolfage got indicted last year, DHS dropped the project.
WeBuildTheWall’s contractor in Texas ultimately won a $2 billion federal contract under dubious circumstances to build Trump’s wall segments from the federal government.
But this year, President Biden froze all border wall construction soon after the unpeaceful transition of power and ordered a permanent halt on the re-routing of Congressional funding for the military into Trump walls outside of the normal budget process only last week.
After this reporter’s stories on WeBuildTheWall, both Kolfage and Bannon openly joked on their Wall-a-Thon video streams about stealing money from the venture.
Today’s indictment puts intense pressure on Brian Kolfage as he’s suddenly facing a difficult to defend tax indictment in his home state while having to defend the related, original case in New York City.
Here’s a copy of the grand jury charges:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition