Leader of effort to fund Trump’s border wall pleads guilty to fraud

A guilty plea on Thursday by financial co-defendant Andrew Badolato in the case at the same electronic hearing conducted remotely before U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan meant only one of the four initially charged defendants could stand trial in mid-May.

Plea agreements between the government and Kolfage and Badolato specified that the defendants would not contest sentences within an agreed range of guidelines. For Kolfage, that range was four to five years. For Badolato, it was about 3½ to four years. Sentencing was scheduled for September 6.

Kolfage, of Miramar Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and tax charges originally brought in Florida. Badolato, of Sarasota, Florida, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy. Without the plea deal, Kolfage could have faced up to 46 years in prison while Badolato faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group have raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors by repeatedly promising that every dollar would be used for the project.

Asked to describe their crimes by the judge, Kolfage said the group originally planned for all the money raised to be used to build a wall, but it “quickly became apparent” that the plan to give the money to the US government for the construction of the wall the construction was not possible.

At that time, he said, they “encouraged donors to buy into the new project” to build a border wall on private land by falsely claiming that none of the donations would be spent on salaries. or as compensation for fundraisers.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime,” he said.

After speaking, Torres asked questions, including whether he had promised the audience that “100%” of the money would go towards building the wall.

“That’s right,” he replied.

“Despite your promise, you entered into an agreement with others to keep a large sum of money for yourself,” the judge said.

“That’s right,” Kolfage replied.

Badolato said he was involved in the plot from 2018 to 2020, agreeing to assure donors that all money would go towards building the wall despite knowing the claims were false.

“I knew it was wrong and I’m terribly, terribly sorry for what I did and I humbly ask for mercy from the court,” he said.

When the judge asked Badolato if he was aware that Kolfage was going to receive donation money, he replied, “Yes, I did and helped facilitate it.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos said evidence against the men at trial allegedly included testimonies from donors, as well as records of transactions following donations to the defendants’ bank accounts, emails and text records, as well as public statements made by the co-conspirators that were false.


Politico

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