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Steve Bannon to go on trial next year on charges he defrauded $25 million from 'We Build the Wall' donors

The former White House strategist appeared in court by audio link today.

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon outside court earlier this month
Former White House adviser Steve Bannon outside court earlier this month
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

A US JUDGE has set a trial date for Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon on charges that he cheated donors to a group seeking to fund a southern border wall.

Bannon, 66, appeared by audio but was not visible on a video screen as he appeared for the first time before US district judge Analisa Torres, who set a trial date of 24 May next year.

In an indictment along with three others, he was charged two weeks ago with unlawfully raising more than $25 million (around €21 million) for the We Build The Wall campaign.

Prosecutors said thousands of investors were duped into thinking all of their donations would go towards the project, even though Bannon diverted over a million dollars, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself.

Bannon pleaded not guilty after his arrest on 20 August on board a luxury yacht off the coast of Connecticut. He was freed on 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 by video screen were Bannon’s co-defendants, 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 more than €350,000 dollars (€293,000) he received on home renovations, payments towards a boat, a luxury car, a golf cart, jewellery, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt, the indictment said.

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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. 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.

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