New York, Sep 8 (EFE).- Political consultant Steve Bannon, a sometime-adviser to former President Donald Trump, was charged here Thursday with money laundering and other offenses in connection with a fund-raising venture to finance construction of a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.
The charges are detailed in an indictment that was unsealed hours after Bannon, 68, surrendered to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
A previous federal case against him over his activities on behalf of We Build the Wall Inc. was pre-empted when Trump pardoned Bannon in January 2021, but a presidential pardon does not protect the recipient from state charges.
Bannon is charged with two felony counts of money laundering, two counts of conspiracy and a felony count of scheming to defraud. If convicted on the most serious charge, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
He is due to be sentenced next month on a conviction for contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from the legislative committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol by Trump partisans.
Trump promised a border wall during the 2016 campaign and after Congress balked at paying for it, various efforts emerged to finance the construction using contributions.
We Build the Wall collected around $25 million in donations thanks to an advocacy campaign that included events such as one that featured Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son.
Prosecutors accuse Bannon of defrauding donors by secretly directing money to the group’s president, Brian Kolfage, who had promised not to collect a salary for his work on behalf of We Build the Wall.
“Stephen Bannon acted as the architect of a multimillion dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country – including hundreds of Manhattan residents,” District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg said in a statement.
Kolfage, listed in the Bannon indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to federal charges earlier this year.
“This is an irony,” Bannon told reporters outside the Manhattan DA’s office. “On the very day the mayor of this city has a delegation down on the border, they’re persecuting people here for trying to stop them at the border.”
He was referring to a team dispatched to Texas by New York Mayor Eric Adams to look into the thousands of undocumented migrants sent to the Big Apple by the governor of the Lone Star state, Greg Abbott.
Earlier this week, Bannon dismissed the prospective charges as “phony” and decried “a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system.” EFE