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Steve Bannon Associate Convicted on Second Try in We Build the Wall Fraud Case, Completing Sweep for Federal Prosecutors

Timothy Shea

Timothy Shea

Federal prosecutors scored the conviction of Steve Bannon associate Timothy Shea on their second try on Friday, as a jury found him guilty on all charges in the We Build the Wall fraud case.

A previous jury deadlocked with a lone holdout in July, leading to a mistrial.

For prosecutors, a speedy retrial proved more successful, with the jury achieving unanimity.

“Timothy Shea and his co-defendants orchestrated a crowdfunding scheme to purportedly raise funds to erect a border wall between Mexico and the United States,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams wrote in a statement following the verdict. “We Build The Wall’s public campaign promised that 100% of the funds raised would be used to build the wall, which induced over 100,000 victims to donate. Shea and his co-defendants lied. And they stole over $25 million from their victims.”

More than two years have passed since the Department of Justice — then under the stewardship of Attorney General Bill Barr indicted Bannon, Shea, Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato on charges of conspiring to defraud donors in the crowdfunding border-wall initiative and launder the money. Prosecutors said that one of Bannon’s entities took $1 million of the $25 million raised, despite promises that every penny would go toward building a U.S.-Mexico barrier.

Ultimately, We Build the Wall only constructed a few miles of fencing, and four of their leaders filled the pages of a federal indictment. Former President Donald Trump pardoned Bannon during the twilight of his tenure, but he did not follow suit with the other three men. Kolfage and Badolato later pleaded guilty, and Shea fought the charges at trial.

Manhattan’s top prosecutor called the evidence against the remaining defendant “powerful and compelling.”

“Months ago, this Office stated our belief in the powerful and compelling evidence that showed Shea’s guilt,” Williams wrote. “Today, a unanimous jury has convicted Shea on all counts in the indictment.”

Those counts were conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and falsification of documents.

With those convictions, the government prevailed in every case that Trump did not pardon away, and Bannon is now awaiting trial next year on a similar case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D). We Build the Wall’s corporate entity is also a defendant.

Text messages released at Shea’s first trial appear to show him expressing disdain at We Build the Wall’s donors.

“I mean, people are crazy,” Shea wrote on Dec. 18, 2017, after donations topped $41,000. “Who would throw money at something like this? At Christmas time!”

Another chain of message appeared to show him expressing concern about the legality of We Build the Wall’s vow to direct all donations toward construction.

Touted enthusiastically in all caps on the website, Shea appeared in a Feb. 4, 2019, message to question the pitch: “ALL PROCEEDS GO DIRECTLY TO BUILDING THE WALL!”

Minutes later at 9:04 a.m., Kolfage tried to assuage his concerns by writing: “I’ll ask. I think since it can’t be proven it’s ok.”

Shea is seen responding a minute later: “K,” before adding: “I don’t want to go to jail.”

His apparently amused wife Amanda Shea replied: “Lol…jail.”

“Don’t bend over for the soap,” husband Timothy Shea responded in the series of messages.

Shea now faces the possibility of decades of imprisonment.

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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."