Brian Kolfage, the founder of a viral campaign to pay for Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, admitted to federal prosecutors Thursday that he pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars donors gave to his cause.
Kolfage has agreed to serve 51 to 63 months in prison, return the more than $17 million he raised for his his “We Build the Wall” campaign, pay more than $140,000 in unpaid taxes and pay $20,000 to $200,000 in fines as part of a plea agreement over false income taxes he reported in 2019.
“I induced donors to opt to the new project in part through the misrepresentation that I would not profit from We Build the Wall or take a salary or compensation,” Kolfage read from a prepared statement in a virtual court appearance Thursday. “I knowingly and willingly conspired to receive money from the donations.”
The conservative activist and conspiracy theorist admitted to siphoning $350,000 away from donors ― spending it on a boat, luxury vehicles, jewelry and plastic surgery ― despite promises he made not to take a cut of the funds or take any salary for his fundraising job.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime,” said Kolfage, who once insisted when the charges, filed shortly before the 2020 presidential election, were entirely “politically motivated, considering the timing of it.”
Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York has not yet accepted the plea. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6.
Kolfage was arrested in the summer of 2020 alongside former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and two other men involved in the scheme. While Trump pardoned Bannon of any charges in the final moments of his presidency, he did not do the same for Kolfage and the other defendants.
One of them, Andrew Badolato, also pleaded guilty to wire fraud Thursday and faces more than four years in prison. The other, Timothy Shea, has pleaded not guilty.