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Former Trump aide Steve Bannon pleads not liable to border wall scam charges, ordered to surrender passports

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is escorted into courtroom for arraignment, in NY.

Caitlin Ochs | Reuters

Former top Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon was criminally charged in NY on Thursday with a scheme to fraudulently funnel and obscure salary payments to the CEO of a non-profit fundraising effort to create a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. said that Bannon “acted because the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud a large number of donors in the united states including a huge selection of Manhattan residents.”

Bragg said that Bannon, “We Build the Wall” CEO Brian Kolfage among others involved with that campaign had repeatedly claimed that Kolfage wouldn’t normally be paid “a cent” for his work.

“But rather of pennies, [Kolfage] received a lot more than $250,000 in an income fund by donations,” Bragg said.

“At the very least $140,000 which, we allege, was laundered by Stephen Bannon,” said Bragg, who spoke a long time after Bannon surrendered at Manhattan Criminal Court to handle a grand jury indictment, which also charged WeBuildtheWall Inc.

The district attorney said that Bannon throughout 2019 directed the We Build the Wall campaign to cover a non-profit that Bannon controlled “thousands of dollars at the same time.”

“Bannon’s not-for-profit then paid an income to [Kolfage], thereby obscuring the foundation of the funds, in direct contradiction to the countless promises created by Bannon, We Build the Wall, along with other associates in this scheme,” Bragg said.

A handcuffed Bannon, 68, appeared later Thursday in court for arraignment on six criminal counts, such as money laundering, conspiracy and scheme to defraud.

He pleaded not liable through his lawyer, David Schoen.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a news conference after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon arrived to surrender, in NY, U.S., September 8, 2022.

Caitlin Ochs | Reuters

A prosecutor asked Judge Juan Merchan to order Bannon, as a disorder of his release on bail to immediately surrender any passports also to not make an application for any new passports through the case.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Schoen said as he decided to those conditions, that have been imposed by the judge.

“He intends to fight these charges completely,” the lawyer said.

Merchan ordered Bannon to come back to court on Oct. 3 for a status hearing, and said he expected Bannon to seem as well for several subsequent proceedings.

Bannon faces a potential maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison if convicted of money laundering, probably the most serious charge in the indictment. He faces two counts of this charge.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon stands to possess his handcuffs removed for his arraignment at the brand new York Criminal Courthouse in NY, U.S., September 8, 2022 in this courtroom sketch.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

The brand new indictment comes a lot more than 2 yrs after Bannon was arrested on federal charges he and three other men defrauded donors who gave $25 million or even more to invest in the We Build the Wall campaign. That campaign supported the intention of then-President Donald Trump to create a wall across the southern border of america.

Trump pardoned Bannon for the reason that federal case on his yesterday evening before leaving office in January 2021.

Presidential pardons only connect with federal crimes, and don’t protect folks from prosecution on state charges just like the ones Bannon now faces in Manhattan.

Kolfage and another man, Andrew Badolato, pleaded guilty to federal charges linked to the wall scheme in April. They’re scheduled to be sentenced in December.

The federal trial of a third defendant if so, Timothy Shea, ended with a deadlocked jury in June. Shea is scheduled to be retried the following month.

None of the three men for the reason that federal case were charged in Thursday’s indictment against Bannon.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to former President Donald Trump finds the NY District Attorneys office to show himself in on September 08, 2022 in NEW YORK.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

NY Attorney General Letitia James, whose office participated in the investigation, said, “There can’t be one group of rules for people and another for the wealthy and powerful most of us must play by exactly the same rules and must obey regulations.”

“Mr. Bannon took benefit of his donors’ political views to secure huge amount of money which then misappropriated. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends,” James said.

As he walked into Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday morning, Bannon told a crowd of reporters and gawkers that the brand new prosecution against him is politically motivated.

“That is an irony, on the day the mayor of the city includes a delegation down on the border, they’re persecuting people here,” Bannon shouted over numerous hecklers jeering him.

He was discussing NEW YORK Mayor Eric Adams having dispatched several officials to the southern border earlier this week to meet up with Border Patrol agents. That trip was section of a continuing feud the Democrat Adams has with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, who has sent buses filled up with migrants to NEW YORK.

One onlooker yelled at Bannon: “Stop hurting America, you greasy, two-bit grifter!”

Bannon in July was convicted in U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., of two counts of contempt of Congress. That case stemmed from his refusal to testify prior to the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters.

“We expect that case to be turned over on appeal,” Schoen said Thursday during Bannon’s arraignment in NY.

Earlier this week, Bannon told NBC News that NY authorities “made a decision to pursue phony charges against me 60 days prior to the midterm election.”

“That is only a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system,” he said.

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