© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Air Force senior officer Brian Kolfage Jr., a three-legged amputee who lost both legs and an arm while serving his second deployment in Iraq in 2004, attends Veterans Day Parade on 5th Avenue in New York, USA, November 11, 2014
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. Air Force veteran accused of defrauding donors in a fundraising campaign to help former President Donald Trump build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has agreed to plead guilty to fraud. fraud conspiracy and three taxes.
The US Department of Justice revealed its plea agreement with Brian Kolfage, who leads the “We Build the Wall” campaign, in a filing with the US District Court of Manhattan on Wednesday.
Kolfage is expected to formally plead guilty April 21 before US District Judge Analisa Torres. His attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In August 2020, the government charged Kolfage, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and two other defendants with We Build the Wall.
Kolfage, of Miramar Beach, Florida, created the campaign privately in December 2018, 14 years after losing his right leg and arm in a missile attack in Iraq. After returning from the country, he became involved in conservative politics.
Prosecutors say Kolfage told potential donors he would “not take a dime” because he had raised more than $25 million, but took more than $350,000 and spent the money on a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry and plastic surgery, among other expenses. .
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The tax charges, originally filed in Florida, included false tax returns and wire transfer fraud.
A separate money-laundering conspiracy charge is not part of Kolfage’s plea agreement, according to the letter Wednesday.
Torres denied the charges against Bannon last May, after Bannon was pardoned by the president in the final hours of Trump’s presidency.
Kolfage’s co-defendant, Andrew Badolato, is also expected to plead guilty on April 21, court records show.
Prosecutors said last week the final defendant, Timothy Shea, agreed to plead guilty but changed his mind.
“Mr Shea is exercising his constitutional right to a fair trial,” his attorney John Meringolo said in an email on Wednesday.
The cases are US v Kolfage et al., United States District Court, Southern District of New York, no. 20-cr-00412; and US v Kolfage in the same court, number 22-cr-00201.