Two men who promised investors that all of their donations would go toward building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border pleaded guilty to fraud Thursday, setting themselves up for potential 20-year sentences while their partner, Steve Bannon, walks free on a presidential pardon. U.S. Air Force Iraq War veteran Brain Kolfage and Florida venture capitalist Andrew Badolato admitted that the money supposedly earmarked for wall construction instead lined their pockets, Courthouse News Service reports. Badolato, 57, told U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres he is “terribly, terribly sorry for what we did and humbly, respectfully beg the court for mercy.”
With Bannon calling their outfit a “volunteer organization,” We Build the Wall raised $25 million in private donations but built just three miles of fencing along the border. Bannon and Kolfage alone used more than $1 million in We Build the Wall donations to pay for a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery and other assets. In court last year, the co-conspirators made an unsuccessful bid to regain access to their investors’ frozen dollars, with appellate judges expressing amazement that pending criminal charges apparently did little to deter donations. Kolfage, 39, told a judge, "Despite our promises, together with others, I knowingly and willfully conspired to unlawfully receive money from the donations. I knew what I was doing was wrong and a crime.” Bannon escaped liability when President Trump issued him a pardon on his last day in office.