Steve Bannon associate on trial for ‘We Build the Wall’ charity scam

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NEW YORK — A Colorado entrepreneur accused of funneling kickback cash from a charity that raised money to build a wall on the Mexican border committed “fraud, plain and simple,” prosecutors said in Manhattan federal court Tuesday.

Timothy Shea was in charge of a shell company that moved $20,000 of donations a month from the “We Build the Wall” fund to Brian Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran who founded the campaign, which the feds say was controlled by Steve Bannon, a onetime strategist for former President Donald Trump.

“He (Shea) knew what they were doing was wrong and illegal,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Moe. “You’re going to see the defendant’s own words... You’ll see the messages in which they hatch the plan for stealing the money and paying illegal kickbacks.”

Shea, along with Kolfage, Bannon and Andrew Badolato were busted for the border wall scheme in 2020.

Their GoFundMe campaign — which promised every penny raised would be used to build a wall — took in $25 million from hundreds of thousands of people. Kolfage repeatedly told donors that he would “not take a penny in salary or compensation,” prosecutors said.

But Kolfage took in $350,000 between December 2018 and August 2020, spending the cash on cosmetic surgery, home renovations, a car, a boat, a golf cart, jewelry and credit card debt. Bannon was gifted more than $1 million, which he used to cover personal expenses, according to the feds. Shea also received hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.

Bannon, who was indicted in the case, was pardoned by Trump. Badolato and Kolfage pleaded guilty in April.

Many of the illegal payments were made through Shea’s Ranch Property Management, which prosecutors said was a shell company used to funnel the money to his co-defendants.

Shea’s lawyer, John Meringolo, claims his client simply worked hard and was entitled to receive legitimate payments for his labor.

“Maybe Tim Shea worked,” Meringolo said during his opening statement.