Two Leaders Of ‘We Build The Wall’ Online Fundraising Campaign Plead Guilty To Defrauding Hundreds Of Thousands Of Donors
Brian Kolfage (Kaimuki HS grad) and Andrew Badolato Admitted to Participating in Wire Fraud Conspiracy
News Release from USDoJ, April 22, 2022
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BRIAN KOLFAGE and ANDREW BADOLATO pled guilty today in connection with their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to an online crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall.” Both defendants pled guilty before United States District Judge Analisa Torres.
According to the Indictment filed in the case:
Starting in approximately December 2018, BRIAN KOLFAGE, ANDREW BADOLATO, and others orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors, including donors in the Southern District of New York, in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign ultimately known as “We Build The Wall” that raised more than $25,000,000 to build a wall along the southern border of the United States. In particular, to induce donors to donate to the campaign, KOLFAGE repeatedly and falsely assured the public that he would “not take a penny in salary or compensation” and that “100% of the funds raised . . . will be used in the execution of our mission and purpose.”
Those representations were false. In truth, KOLFAGE, BADOLATO, and others 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. For example, KOLFAGE covertly took for his personal use more than $350,000 in funds that donors had given to We Build the Wall. To conceal the payments to KOLFAGE from We Build the Wall, KOLFAGE, BADOLATO, and others devised a scheme to route those payments from We Build the Wall to KOLFAGE indirectly. They did so by using fake invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to ensure, as KOLFAGE noted in a text message to BADOLATO, that his pay arrangement remained “completely confidential” and kept on a “need to know” basis.
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KOLFAGE, 39, and BADOLATO, 57, both residents of Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In the same proceeding, KOLFAGE also pled guilty to tax and wire fraud charges filed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida.
The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the judge.
Both KOLFAGE and BADOLATO are scheduled to be sentenced at 1:00 pm on September 6, 2022, by Judge Torres.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Nicolas Roos, Alison G. Moe, and Robert B. Sobelman are in charge of the prosecution.