Two of the founders of the "We Build the Wall" campaign have been sentenced to prison for their role in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors and stealing the proceeds, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.
Brian Kolfage, 41, was sentenced to 51 months in prison, just over four years, and Andrew Badolato, 58, was sentenced to three years in prison. The two men both pleaded guilty in April of last year to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the donor scheme.
The crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Kolfage was also ordered to forfeit over $17.8 million and pay over $2 million in restitution. Badolato must forfeit over $1.4 million and pay the same amount in restitution.
"The fraud perpetrated by Mr. Kolfage and Mr. Badolato went well beyond defrauding individual donors," U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres said in a press release. "They hurt us all," Torres said.
Kolfage and Badolato worked with Steve Bannon, former chief White House strategist in the Trump administration, to pull together a crowdfunded effort to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border after Donald Trump made building a wall a signature part of his 2016 campaign and subsequent presidency.
Despite Kolfage asserting that all of the funds would be put toward their mission and purpose, the defendants used the money for their personal use and took steps to conceal it by using fake invoices and contracts, DOJ said.
The crowdfunded campaign ultimately raised over $25 million. Kolfage and Badolato’s co-defendant Timothy Shea, 52, was also convicted on multiple counts related to the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 13, according to DOJ.
Kolfage’s lawyers said in a statement that he “respects the Court and its determination but we disagree that 51 months’ was appropriate for this American hero” given his service as a veteran and triple amputee.
Badolato’s lawyer did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Steve Bannon, who was indicted in September 2022 in New York state on charges including money laundering and scheming to defraud donors, was pardoned of federal charges for his role in "We Build the Wall" by President Donald Trump. Bannon has pleaded not guilty in both the federal and New York cases.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Kolfage and Badolato “abused the trust of donors to We Build the Wall and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to line their own pockets. The defendants have now been held accountable for their criminal conduct.”