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Feds Hint at Possible Plea Deal with Steve Bannon’s Associate in Case of We Build the Wall, the Charity to Crowdfund a U.S.-Mexico Border Barrier

U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

A U.S. Border Patrol agents stands near a section of privately-built border wall under construction on Dec. 11, 2019 near Mission, Texas. The hardline immigration group We Build The Wall funded construction of the wall on private land along the Rio Grande, which forms the border with Mexico. Prosecutors say the executives from the charity conspired to defraud their donors.

Federal prosecutors told a judge that a plea deal with Steve Bannon’s longtime associate Andrew Badolato may be imminent in the case of We Build the Wall, a crowdfunding effort for a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border that led to indictments of four people associated with the charity.

“The Government and defendant Andrew Badolato are in the final stages of discussions about a pretrial resolution of the case and do not anticipate that a trial on the charges against Mr. Badolato will be necessary,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos wrote in a single-page letter on Monday.

In August 2020, federal prosecutors charged We Build the Wall’s founder Brian Kolfage, Bannon, Badolato, and Timothy Shea with conspiring to defraud the charity’s donors and scheming to commit money laundering. Prosecutors claimed that We Build the Wall promised that every penny raised would go to construction, but they said Bannon pocketed $1 million. Kolfage took $350,000 plus went on a spending spree to buy a Jupiter Marine yacht called the Warfighter, a Range Rover SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, and cosmetic surgery, according to the indictment.

Former President Donald Trump pardoned only Bannon, his former chief strategist, of those charges in the twilight of his presidency.

If an agreement is reached for Badolato, only two of the four original defendants will stand trial: Kolfage and Shea.

“Accordingly, the parties jointly propose that the Court request only one trial date for this case, for defendants Brian Kolfage and Timothy Shea,” the letter states. “However, if Mr. Badolato has not resolved the charges pending against him by March 10, 2022, counsel for Mr. Shea intends to submit a letter with exhibits to the Court objecting to Mr. Shea being tried with Mr. Kolfage.”

“Separately, the Government, Mr. Kolfage, and Mr. Shea are in ongoing discussions about potential evidentiary and legal issues that may arise at trial,” it continues.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Bannon and Badolato’s relationship stretches back some 20 years, including failed penny stock ventures and production of conservative documentaries. Their relationship continued even during Bannon’s stint in the White House, the paper reported.

Badolato’s attorney Daniel Lawrence Stein, from the firm Mayer Brown LLP, did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment. Neither did Bannon’s lawyer Robert Costello.

Kolfage’s attorney Cesar De Castro declined comment.

In addition to his Southern District of New York prosecution, Kolfage is also awaiting trial on tax charges in a federal court in Florida. Prosecutors there claim that Kolfage failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars that he received from multiple organizations during 2019.

One of those entities was We Build the Wall, prosecutors say.

Also subject to extensive delays during the COVID-19 pandemic, that trial is now reportedly slated to begin in March.

Read the filing, below:

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."