EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Two of the men involved with “We Build the Wall” that built the private border wall at Sunland Park pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud and money laundering.
“We Build the Wall” raised over $25 million in donations to build the border fence. The indictment says Brian Kolfage took over $350,000 in donated funds for personal use.
It also states that Steve Bannon, who you may recall was pardoned by former President Donald Trump, took over $1 million in donated funds to secretly pay Kolfage as well as his personal expenses.
The four men named in the indictment included Kolfage, Bannon, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea. Kolfage and Badolato are the ones to plead guilty, Bannon has been pardoned, and a trial date has yet to be set for Shea.
The indictment says these four men invented a scheme to conceal payments using fake invoices and false supplier indictments.
“We Build the Wall” traveled to El Paso to raise money for the wall, and the former Republican Party chairman from El Paso said he was there for the event. Speak to KTSM 9 News about the indictment.
“I’m like everyone else, if I had known they weren’t living what they were saying, we probably wouldn’t have supported it. But again, a lot of people raised a lot of money and they are guilty, they are guilty, they have to pay the price,” said Adolpho Telles, the former chairman of the El Paso Republican Party.
Telles says they were contacted when “We Build the Wall” came to El Paso but hadn’t met any of the people.
“Other than visiting them on the phone until we showed up there to celebrate with them and see what we could do to support their cause, I had never met any of these people. information about them because obviously what they were doing was very public,” Telles said.
And while he doesn’t condone the taking of donation money, Telles says he believes what “We’re Building the Wall” said money was a good thing.
“They built this wall in an area where the core of engineers said you couldn’t do it because of the slope, so there were a lot of positive things coming out of it, but the fact that they did promises they didn’t keep is disappointing,” Telles said.
The indictment also said Kolfage repeatedly and falsely assured the public that the donated funds would be used to build the border fence.
“Not to take a dime in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised…will be used in carrying out our mission and purpose” because, as Bannon has publicly stated, “we are an organization volunteer “.
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