Florida man Brian Kolfage, the leader of the $25 million crowdfunded border wall group We Build The Wall, was indicted by a federal grand jury for filing false information on his 2019 tax returns, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The indictment comes after Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran, and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon were indicted in August for defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors who contributed to their nonprofit border wall project under the false pretense that all money raised would be spent on construction, according to the Justice Department.
Former President Donald Trump pardoned Bannon in the final days of his administration, however, he did not pardon Kolfage.
The Justice Department said in a statement that Kolfage deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars from multiple organizations in 2019, including We Build The Wall, into his personal bank account, then failed to report that income to the Internal Revenue Service.
“The United States relies on the payment of taxes to defend our country and maintain its operations,” said acting United States Attorney Jason Coody. “We will investigate and prosecute those who falsely misrepresent their income – whether by traditional evasion or failing to disclose charitable contributions diverted to their personal gain.”
Kolfage faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the Justice Department said.
Kolfage became an internet sensation in December 2018 after launching a GoFundMe campaign that sought to raise $1 billion to fund the federal government’s construction of a southern border wall.
However, in January 2019, after Kolfage’s campaign raised more than $20 million, he announced he was going to transfer the funds to his new nonprofit group We Build The Wall, which he said would build a private border wall on its own.
Kolfage explicitly promised in a now-deleted Tweet in January 2019 he would “NEVER take a penny” of the funds raised through the GoFundMe campaign.
The Justice Department alleged in August that Kolfage took more than $350,000 from We Build The Wall for his personal use.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in January 2019 shortly after Kolfage launched We Build The Wall that he was refusing to answer basic questions about the group, including questions related to his promise to not take a salary from the organization.
Watchdogs warned at the time that donors were taking a huge risk in giving to Kolfage’s nonprofit, the DCNF reported.
“With no established track record, Kolfage should be even more willing to be transparent with the public,” an analyst with the watchdog group CharityWatch, Stephanie Kalivas, told the DCNF. “The apparent lack of established governing documents, and Kolfage’s unwillingness to make available to the public the ‘white paper’ he claims has already been prepared ‘to every detail’ are additional red flags.”
“Donors are taking a huge risk in blindly trusting that Kolfage will keep to, or be able to execute on, his claims, especially considering the magnitude of the purported mission,” Kalivas said.
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