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‘We Build the Wall’ leaders who worked with Bannon plead guilty to fraud

Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Image: Brian Kolfage
Brian Kolfage, second from right, at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum's "Salute to Service" tribute honoring U.S. veterans in New York on Nov. 10, 2014.Bebeto Matthews / AP file

“We Build the Wall” campaign crowd-funders Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato pleaded guilty Thursday for their roles in pocketing donations solicited to help build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Kolfage, 39, and Badolato, 57, each pleaded guilty in federal court in New York City to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran, also pleaded guilty to tax and wire fraud charges.

The two men worked alongside Steve Bannon, who was the chief White House strategist during the Trump administration and was also indicted in connection with orchestrating the wall crowdfunding effort. Bannon pleaded not guilty and was later pardoned by then-President Donald Trump.

Another leader of the fundraising campaign who was not pardoned by Trump — Timothy Shea — has pleaded not guilty.

The men are alleged to have organized a scheme in December 2018 that raised more than $25 million by defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to a crowdfunding campaign to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S., one of Trump's key campaign promises.

Kolfage “repeatedly and falsely assured the public that he would ‘not take a penny in salary’” and that “100 % of the fund raised ... will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose,” according to the indictment.

The indictment goes on to say he “covertly” took more than $350,000 for his personal use while Bannon used a nonprofit group under his control to receive $1 million from the campaign to pay Kolfage and personal expenses.

Bannon falsely claimed that the campaign was a “volunteer organization,” according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants used “fake invoices” and “‘sham’ vendor agreements” to route hundreds of thousands of donated dollars from “We Build the Wall” to pay for their personal expenses.

Kolfage and Badolato are scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 6.

NBC News has asked their attorneys for comment.