Bannon and other accused are said to have diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars for themselves – from donations to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
The former chief strategist of US President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, has been arrested in New York after a fraud charge. New York prosecutors accused him and three other suspects of having diverted money from an online fundraiser to build a wall on the border with Mexico. The non-profit organization called “We Build the Wall” has raised more than $25 million from “hundreds of thousands” donors.
The indictment published Thursday said Bannon, 66, had received more than $1 million in revenues through another nonprofit organization under his control. He used hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover personal expenses. The other three defendants also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the “We Build the Wall” donations, “each of which they used in a way that is inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.”
The indictment also stated that the organization had advertised that 100 percent of the funds would be used to build a wall. The 38-year-old founder and president of the organization repeatedly falsely assured the public that he would not receive any salary or remuneration. Bannon stated publicly: “We are a volunteer organization.” These representations were wrong.
In order to disguise the payments to the also accused president of “We Build the Wall”, the four had hatched a plan to channel funds, among other things, through the non-profit organization under Bannon’s control and through a straw company. That happened, for example, through fake invoices. This was supposed to ensure that the payments remained “confidential”, as can be seen from text messages from the President to a co-defendant.
Acting district attorney Audrey Strauss said the organization’s president had used the funds to finance his lavish lifestyle. Bannon and the three other defendants were arrested on Thursday, according to prosecutors. According to the allegations, the fraud plans of the four accused date back to the end of 2018. According to information on the homepage of “We Build the Wall”, Bannon was chairman of the advisory board. The prosecutor said the accused would be charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money. The two points could result in a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison each.
Bannon is one of the most influential voices in the ultra-conservative camp of US politics. The co-founder of the arch-conservative Internet platform “Breitbart” had joined the Trump team before the 2016 election campaign phase and then took over the leadership of the election campaign. He is credited with a significant share in the then rather surprising move of the real estate billionaire into the White House.
After Trump moved into the White House, Bannon became Trump’s chief strategist, his influence has been described as tremendous. Bannon is considered one of the architects of Trump’s “America First” strategy and a vehement advocate of the president’s nationalist economic policy. In the summer of 2017, Bannon had to take his hat off under pressure from Trump. At the time, the White House announced that Bannon had reached an agreement with Chief of Staff John Kelly to leave the advisory post.