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Prosecutors Accuse Last ‘We Build the Wall’ Defendant of Falsifying Records, Threatening Suspected Witness with Supposed Mafia Ties

We Build the Wall construction

A construction roller flattens land for a section of privately built border wall on December 11, 2019 near Mission, Texas. The hardline immigration group We Build The Wall is funding construction of the wall on private land along a stretch of the Rio Grande, which forms the border with Mexico.

Federal prosecutors filed a new indictment on Friday against the sole remaining defendant charged with conspiring to defraud donors in a crowdfunded effort to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of the four men initially indicted in the We Build the Wall case, only Timothy Shea’s case appears to be heading toward a trial. He was originally indicted with former President Donald Trump’s ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon, Iraq War veteran Brian Kolfage, and Andrew Badolato.

Though all faced the same allegations, Trump pardoned only Bannon toward the end of the 45th president’s term. Kolfage and Badolato, who reportedly was Bannon’s longtime friend, opted to pursue plea deals, which have yet to be accepted by a judge.

For now, that leaves only Shea to face a jury on May 16.

If or when Shea stands trial, he would face one more federal charge that his three erstwhile co-defendants ever did. All were initially indicted on charges of conspiring to defraud We Build the Wall donors and launder their money. The superseding indictment against Shea, filed on Friday but dated Thursday, charges an additional count of falsification of records.

“Shea created and caused the creation of documents that were falsely backdated and stated false reasons for payments from We Build the Wall to Shea and from Shea to Brian Kolfage, with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York,” it states.

Prosecutors insist that the additional charge will not delay the trial.

“The government notified the defendant, through counsel, at least several weeks ago of the possibility of a superseding indictment, including that the superseding indictment was likely to contain the obstruction charge,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos wrote in a letter on Thursday, explaining the basis of the new charge. “The changes to the Indictment will not result in the production of any new discovery, and also should have no effect on the estimated length of the trial.”

On Thursday, prosecutors also explained why they want to admit evidence that Shea allegedly told a suspected government witness that he should “watch his back” and that he “knows people in a New York mafia crime family.”

Shea’s attorney John Meringolo asked a federal judge to leave out that evidence because his client “never set foot in New York,” except once for a family vacation.

“He is unequivocally and definitively unrelated to, and unassociated with, any individual or group that could even conceivably be described as such,” Meringolo wrote. “The government’s false allegations, if not so consequential to this very important moment in Mr. Shea’s life, would be laughable.”

For prosecutors, the defense argument “misses the point.”

“The government does not intend to offer this evidence to prove that the defendant had ties to organized crime families,” they wrote. “Instead, this evidence is directly relevant to establish the defendant’s state of mind, and in particular his consciousness of guilt.”

Meringolo declined comment to Law&Crime.

Read the superseding indictment, 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."