Brian Kolfage, the triple-amputee war veteran charged alongside Steve Bannon with conspiring to siphon money from a $25 million fund to build a U.S-Mexico border wall, says Manhattan federal prosecutors are on a witch hunt led by the president’s enemies.
In his first interview since the charges were handed down on Aug. 20, Kolfage, 37, called the indictment by the US Attorney in the Southern District of NY as reading like “a New York Times hit piece.”
“They made it up. It’s so blatantly false. If they can do this to us they can do it to anybody,” he said by phone from his home in Miramar Beach, Fla. “Everyone knows that the Southern District is really the sovereign district. They do their own things. They went after Rudy [Giuliani]. They do what they want to do and it’s political motivated.”
Bannon has publicly denied any wrongdoing, calling the charges he also skimmed cash off the fund for personal expenses a “political hit job.”
Kolfage, an Iraq war hero who lost both legs and and right hand in a 2004 rocket attack, became a household name in December 2018 after launching a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $1 billion toward funding Trump’s long-promised wall along the southern border. The “We Build The Wall” effort — which has raised more than $25 million — promised donors that all funds would go toward construction and related costs and that Kolfage would take no salary.
The feds insist Kolfage immediately began skimming off the top, with $350,000 going to fund his own “lavish lifestyle,” which included “home renovations, payments towards a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments, and credit card debt.”
The 24-page indictment alleges Kolfage funneled fund money to a non-profit controlled by Bannon that would secretly kick some of the money back to Kolfage.
“Kolfage, working primarily with Bannon [and a third defendant, Andrew Badolato], reached a secret agreement whereby Kolfage would be covertly paid ‘100K upfront [and] then [$20,000 per] month.’”
The non-profit received more than $1 million from Kolfage for his secret payments, and a “substantial portion” also went to Bannon, the feds say.
The wall-building campaign attracted movers and shakers nationally. Donald Trump Jr. spoke at an event for the group in July, 2019 — calling their efforts “amazing.” Former Kansas Secretary of State and close Trump ally Kris Kobach served as the group’s legal counsel.
“I’ve spoken to the President about this project on three occasions now,” Kobach said during a May 2019 Facebook Live interview. “And he said — the first time I told him about it — he said, ‘Well, you tell the guys at We Build The Wall, that they have my blessing.’ And he used those exact words.”
Trump has since distanced himself from the effort. “I didn’t like that project. I thought that was a project that was being done for showboating reasons,” he said on the day the charges were revealed.
The feds further charged that Kolfage made the fraud a family affair, with his wife being paid by the non-profit for unspecified “media.”
“That never happened,” Kolfage told The Post of payments to his wife, Instagram influencer Ashley Kolfage.
He also denied spending We Build The Wall money on luxury items laid out in the indictment.
“I bought that boat a year before We Build The Wall,” Kolfage said. The 40-foot-foot motorboat, named Warfighter, made a July 4th appearance in a Trump Boat parade near Destin, Fla.
Kolfage says he gets $100,000 a year from the Department of Veterans Affairs for his combat related injuries and also does data work for fundraisers and political campaigns.
“I’m not living a lavish life by any freaking means,” Kolfage said, adding, “We are a good middle class family. Thank God I have a house that was given to me by the Gary Sinise Foundation.”
Kolfage admitted he did ultimately start taking a $15,000 monthly salary in January 2020, but said it was not improper or criminal and that he disclosed it in an email to donors that month. (In March Kolfage told Reuters he was taking $10,000 a month. He claimed to The Post the Reuters story was inaccurate.)
Prosecutors say the transparency began only after Kolfage and his co-conspirators became aware they were under federal investigation.
Kolfage claimed the feds sought to humiliate him during his Aug. 20 arrest.
He said that morning a squad of United States Postal Inspection Service agents ordered him out of bed and would not allow him to take his prosthetic limbs for the 90-minute drive to a Pensacola courthouse.
“How does a person with no legs get into a vehicle that’s not equipped for a wheelchair?” the former Air Force senior airman said. “I had to get on my butt and crawl up into it like a monkey with one arm and in the rain. My kids were watching. It was humiliating.”
Reps for the USPIS declined to comment and the Southern District did not respond to requests for comment.
Kolfage declined to discuss any matters relating to the group’s current finances, but said he planned to cover his own legal fees out of pocket — which he expected to be considerable. Kolfage said he has not been in contact with Bannon since the charges came down.
The indictment acknowledges some money was used on wall construction and Kolfage proudly pointed to a .75 mile stretch in El Paso built by his group, and another 3.5 mile section in Mission, Texas.
Kolfage rejected any suggestion of a presidential pardon or commutation if found guilty.
“There is nothing that was done wrong or illegally and when the facts come out people will see,” Kolfage said.
New York Post
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