“We Build The Wall” founder Brian Kolfage declared an income of $63,574 to the IRS in 2019.
But in reality, he had hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into a personal bank account from the GoFundMe-powered border wall project and other organizations, according to yet another federal indictment filed against Kolfage this week.
We Build the Wall’s leadership — except for Steve Bannon, who received a last-minute presidential pardon from Donald Trump — already faces federal charges in New York. (Bannon is reportedly under scrutiny from New York state authorities.)
The new indictment, from a grand jury in Northern Florida, adds even more potential prison time for Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran who became the poster boy for the private border wall project.
The latest indictment alleges that Kolfage filed a false tax return and committed wire fraud. The allegations add to those from the New York grand jury, which charged that he and others conspired to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the Florida grand jury, the deposits into Kolfage’s bank account “were obscured by passing through multiple organizations, corporations, entities, and persons.”
Kolfage’s arraignment is scheduled for May 27 in Pensacola.
His attorney, Harvey A. Steinberg, told TPM in an email: “Unlike the government, we are not going to hold a press conference to celebrate the persecution of a war hero.”
In the New York case, Kolfage and his fellow defendants have pled not guilty. Last month, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres said she would seek a trial in the fourth calendar quarter of 2021.
Aside from allegedly scamming donors, We Build the Wall also engaged in a back-and-forth with the Trump administration over the organization’s desire to donate a border wall to the government. Kris Kobach, the group’s general counsel, even met with Mark Morgan, then the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in August 2019, TPM reported last month.
That November, then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria Chavez discussed We Build The Wall at a press conference. Kolfage’s wall in the region, Chavez said, was “very effective.”
Accusations of shady dealings against the border wall fundraising group became a meme even before the federal charges. During one fundraising push, Bannon even joked to Kolfage that the Air Force vet “took all that money from Build the Wall” and bought a boat with it.
According to the New York indictment, Kolfage actually did use part of the $350,000 he allegedly received in We Build The Wall funds for “home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt.”
Aside from Bannon, We Build The Wall attracted a who’s-who of the nativist, Trumpian right: Advisory board members included Erik Prince, Kobach, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and others. Some in the group had relationships with border vigilantes and right-wing extremists like Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.
This post has been updated.