Air Force Veteran jailed for “We Build The Wall” fundraising fraud
May 11, 2023

Brian Kolfage, a disabled Air Force veteran and co-founder of the “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign, has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for his involvement in a fraud scheme that saw him and his associates misappropriating funds intended for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Kolfage, who lost both legs and a hand while serving in Iraq in 2004, had pleaded guilty to fraud charges in connection with the fundraising campaign. He and his associates, Andrew Badolato and Thomas Shea, solicited donations on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, promising to use the funds to build a border wall.

However, instead of using the money as promised, they diverted it for personal use, including buying luxury items and paying off debt. Kolfage alone received more than $350,000. The trio had routed the money through fake invoices and sham contracts.

The fundraising campaign had raised over $25 million from more than 320,000 individual donors. Despite initially promising to donate the money to the federal government for the wall’s construction, Kolfage later announced that the funds would instead be re-routed to a non-profit organization called We Build the Wall, Inc. The non-profit was run by the convicted persons.

In addition to his prison sentence, Kolfage has also been ordered to pay approximately $25 million in restitution, representing the total amount of money donated to the We Build the Wall campaign. He will have to return the money to the donors who contributed to the campaign.

The sentencing of Kolfage serves as a reminder of the importance of transparency and accountability in fundraising. It highlights the need for individuals and organizations to ensure that donations are used for their intended purpose and that donors are informed of how their contributions are being used.

“Brian Kolfage and Andrew 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,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.

At his sentencing, Kolfage expressed remorse for his actions and acknowledged that he had broken his promise not to personally benefit from the campaign.

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