'We Build the Wall' founder pleads guilty in connection with defrauding donors, siphoning funds

Disabled Iraq vet Brian Kolfage is facing at least five years in prison

Updated: April 22, 2022 - 8:25am

The disabled Air Force veteran who led a $25 million fundraising effort for the U.S.-Mexico border wall has pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding donors.

Veteran Brian Kolfage plead guilty Thursday in federal court to charges of having funneled over $350,000 in donations toward personal expenses including home renovations and car payments.

Kolfage, who lost three limbs serving in Iraq, told donors he would not take a cut of the donations or a salary. 

Kolfage, in partnership with Andrew Badolato, Timothy Shea, and with the help of Steve Bannon, created "We Build the Wall," a large scale crowdfunding effort started in 2018 with the stated goal of helping the federal government complete the full southern border wall. 

During the videoconference hearing in the Southern District of New York, Kolfage told a judge that he had siphoned off money for himself and also pleaded guilty to tax crimes because he did not report that income.

He told U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres that the mission ran into barriers in meeting its initial goal of subsidizing the construction of the border wall, but that he "continued to raise funds and promised I would take no salary and would not take a penny in profits."

As part of his plea deal, Kolfage has agreed to forfeit more than $17 million collected during the period of fundraising. He is facing up to five years in prison.

Badalato also pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and is facing up to more than four years in prison. Both men are expected to be sentenced in September.