Photo via Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia Commons
A federal probe that led to the announcement Thursday of conspiracy charges against Stephen Bannon, a former top aide to President Donald Trump, and three other men has roots in Florida.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services opened an investigation in May 2019 into the “We Build the Wall” charity, after consumer complaints that were initially submitted to the office of Attorney General Ashley Moody.
Bannon and the other men, including Florida resident Brian Kolfage, the leader of the crowdfunded "We Build the Wall" effort, are accused of defrauding donors under the pretense that money would be used to help build a wall along the nation’s Southern border.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a news release Thursday that her department’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement forwarded its investigation of the group to the FBI.
“From the beginning, this investigation has been fully non-partisan, independent, and carried out with the professionalism it deserves,” Fried said in a prepared statement. “As our department considers further action, I thank the U.S. Department of Justice and federal and state partners for their efforts to protect Florida’s consumers from alleged fraud.”
Among the complaints submitted to Moody’s office was one in January 2019 by Wendy S. Tien, then an assistant attorney general in Minnesota. Tien wrote to Moody that We Build the Wall, Inc. “holds itself out as a Florida non-profit corporation” and that may be “potentially or intentionally misleading.”
Bannon, Kolfage, Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced Thursday.
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