The ‘We Build The Wall’ Scheme That Got Steve Bannon Indicted Involves A Colorado Man, Too

August 20, 2020
Border Wall-FundraiserBorder Wall-FundraiserCedar Attanasio/AP Photo
Leaders of We Build the Wall Inc. discuss plans for future barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Sunland Park, N.M. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon, a Colorado man and two other organizers were arrested Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, on charges that they ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme “We Build The Wall.”

A Colorado man is one of four people, including President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon, who were indicted on Thursday on federal charges that they misled donors and ripped off hundreds of thousands of people through a fraudulent $25 million fundraising effort to construct a wall along the border between the U.S and Mexico.  

The indictment names Bannon, Castle Rock resident Timothy Shea, and Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato of Florida. They are accused of personally profiting from the endeavor, despite representing themselves as working in a volunteer capacity.

The project started on GoFundMe under the title, “We The People Will Fund The Wall” at a time when Congress and the president were at odds over border security funding. It rapidly brought in hundreds of thousands of donations from around the country. In January, the group said that instead of sending the money it raised to the federal government, it would go to directly build sections of the wall on private land.

In another Colorado connection, the We Build The Wall website includes former Colorado Congressman, Republican Tom Tancredo on its list of advisory board members. Tancredo is not named anywhere in the indictment. 

“The defendants allegedly engaged in fraud when they misrepresented the true use of donated funds. As alleged, not only did they lie to donors, they schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth,” said Inspector-In-Charge Philip R. Bartlett, in a statement.

The case was filed by the federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, whose office has been persistent in investigating associates of President Trump.

Shea, 49, faces one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. 

He appeared remotely in federal court on Thursday and is out on a $250,000 bond. Conditions of the bond include a ban on moving around any We Build The Wall money or raising any more money for the organization. Shea is also prohibited from leaving the country.

Federal prosecutors allege the four men “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds from We Build the Wall, which they each used in a manner inconsistent with the organization’s public representations.” 

The four consistently promised donors -- some of whom said they had little money -- that “100 percent” of the donations would go towards funding the wall. 

Behind the scenes, via text messages and emails, Bannon, Kolfage, Shea and Badolato set up a battery of shell nonprofits and companies to pay themselves money from the funds for “consulting” or “social media,” according to the 24-page indictment.

Throughout most of 2019, the four men received “hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds” from We Build The Wall, which was used to pay for a variety of personal expenses, including travel, hotels, consumer goods and credit card debts, the indictment alleged.

Shea lives in Castle Rock and has been involved in Douglas County politics and Republican circles. He and his wife, Amanda, help manage the conservative, pro-Trump Facebook page, “Take Action Colorado,” which has more than 15,000 followers. 

Among his recent donations to Republican candidates and causes, Shea gave $200 in July to Matthew Durkin, the Republican candidate running for Jefferson County District Attorney. Durkin said he had no knowledge of the investigation or grand jury until Thursday morning. 

“Now that I am aware of the indictment, the check is being returned immediately,” said Durkin in an email.

In the fall of 2017, well before the We Build The Wall campaign, Shea donated $3,000 to the Colorado Republican Committee, when he was employed by Realty One Group Premier.

Last year, Shea’s wife, Amanda, donated $2,800 to both Trump Victory and Donald J. Trump for President Inc., according to federal campaign filings. She put We Build the Wall Inc. as her employer. She’s listed as an advisory board member on the group’s website but her name is not mentioned in the federal indictment.

The Colorado Republican Party of Colorado and Trump Victory Colorado did not immediately respond to CPR’s request for comment on Shea’s donations. On Thursday, President Trump disavowed any support for the We Build The Wall effort.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with details from Shea's court appearance and more information about the evolution of the We Build The Wall project.