By LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A May 2021 trial date was set Monday for Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, on charges that he cheated donors to a group seeking to fund a southern border wall.
Bannon, 66, of Washington, D.C., appeared by a
udio but was not visible on a video screen as he appeared for the first time before U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, who set a May 24 trial date.
In an indictment along with three others, he was charged two weeks ago with unlawfully raising over $25 million for the “We Build The Wall” campaign.
Prosecutors said thousands of investors were duped into thinking all of their donations would go toward the project, even though Bannon diverted over a million dollars, paying salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.
Bannon pleaded not guilty after his Aug. 20 arrest aboard a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut. He was freed on $5 million bail by a Manhattan magistrate judge.
As he left the courthouse, he shouted: “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”
Also appearing Monday by video screen were Bannon’s codefendants, including Brian Kolfage, the project founder and an Air Force veteran who lost both legs in a mortar attack in Iraq.
Kolfage, 38, of Miramar Beach, Florida, spent some of the over $350,000 he received on home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt, the indictment said.
Also charged were Andrew Badolato, 56, of Sarasota, Florida, and Timothy Shea, 49, of Castle Rock, Colorado. Kolfage, Badolato and Shea entered not guilty pleas Monday. They will be tried alongside Bannon in May.
All four are free on bail after being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison.