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Bannon allies sentenced to prison in 'We Build the Wall' scheme

Brian Kolfage was sentenced to just over four years in prison, while co-defendant Andrew Badolato was sentenced to three years. Steve Bannon pleaded not guilty in September.
Brian Kolfage leaves court in New York on April 26, 2023, after being sentenced for defrauding donors in the "We Build the Wall" effort.
Brian Kolfage leaves court in New York on Wednesday after being sentenced for defrauding donors in the "We Build the Wall" effort.John Minchillo / AP

WASHINGTON — "We Build the Wall" campaign fundraisers Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for their role in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors and stealing the proceeds, the Department of Justice said.

Kolfage was sentenced to 51 months in prison, just over four years, and Badolato was sentenced to three years in prison. Kolfage and Badolato both pleaded guilty in April last year to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the donor scheme. The crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The two were also handed three years of supervised release. Kolfage, 41, was ordered to forfeit over $17.8 million and pay over $2 million in restitution. Badolato, 58, must forfeit over $1.4 million and pay the same amount in restitution.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres also ordered forfeiture of over $1.3 million in funds held by "We Build the Wall" and property in New Mexico, where the group had started constructing part of a wall, according to the DOJ press release.

"The fraud perpetrated by Mr. Kolfage and Mr. Badolato went well beyond defrauding individual donors," Torres said in the release, mentioning that the case would have a "chilling effect" on political donations. "They hurt us all," Torres said.

Kolfage and Badolato worked with Steve Bannon, former chief White House strategist in the Trump administration, to pull together a crowdfunded effort to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border after Donald Trump made building a wall a signature part of his 2016 campaign and subsequent presidency.

“Mr. Kolfage respects the Court and its determination but we disagree that 51 months’ was appropriate for this American hero,” Kolfage’s lawyers said in a statement to NBC News, referring to their client's service as a veteran and triple amputee. “We are disappointed that the Court did not vary substantially based not only on Brian’s contrition and extraordinary service to our country, but also based [on the Bureau of Prisons'] abysmal track record for providing the necessary medical care to inmates.”

Badolato’s lawyer did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Although Trump pardoned Bannon of federal charges for his role in "We Build the Wall," Bannon was indicted in September 2022 in New York state on charges including money laundering and scheming to defraud donors. He pleaded not guilty in both the federal and New York cases.

"Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato abused the trust of donors to We Build the Wall and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to line their own pockets," said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a press release. "The defendants have now been held accountable for their criminal conduct."

The crowdfunded campaign ultimately raised over $25 million. Despite Kolfage asserting that all of the funds would be put toward their mission and purpose, the defendants used the money for their personal use and took steps to conceal it by using fake invoices and contracts, DOJ said.

Their co-defendant Timothy Shea, 52, was also convicted on multiple counts related to the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13, according to DOJ.