New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg today announced the indictment of Stephen K. Bannon, 68, and his Florida-based not-for-profit corporation We Build the Wall, Inc. (We Build the Wall) for a year-long fundraising scheme in which they defrauded thousands of donors across the country out of more than $15 million to line their own pockets, and then laundered the proceeds to further advance and conceal the fraud. A New York State Supreme Court grand jury indictment charged Mr. Bannon and We Build the Wall with two counts of Money Laundering in the Second Degree, a Class C Felony, two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, a Class E Felony, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a Class E Felony, and one count of Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor. Mr. Bannon is scheduled to be arraigned today before State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan in Manhattan at 2:15 p.m.
“There cannot be one set of rules for everyday people and another for the wealthy and powerful — we all must play by the same rules and must obey the law,” said Attorney General James. “Mr. Bannon took advantage of his donors’ political views to secure millions of dollars which he then misappropriated. Mr. Bannon lied to his donors to enrich himself and his friends. We will continue to take on fraudulent behavior in every corner of society, including white collar criminals, because no one is above the law. I thank District Attorney Bragg for his close partnership on this matter and commend the dedicated teams at the Attorney General’s Office and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their hard work.”
“It is a crime to turn a profit by lying to donors, and in New York, you will be held accountable,” said District Attorney Bragg. “As alleged, Stephen Bannon acted as the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud thousands of donors across the country — including hundreds of Manhattan residents. Each and every day, my office works to ensure that when New Yorkers hand over money, they know where it’s going and who it’s going to — without any smokescreens or false promises. I thank Attorney General James for her partnership, as well as the numerous attorneys, investigators, analysts, and so many more from both my office and the Attorney General’s Office that have worked so diligently to bring today’s indictment.”
According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, from January 11, 2019, through December 31, 2019, We Build the Wall, through Mr. Bannon and others, represented that all of the money donated to We Build the Wall would be directed toward the organization’s stated purpose of building a wall on the border of the United States and Mexico using private funds. Mr. Bannon and others specifically represented that none of the donations would be used to pay the salary of We Build the Wall’s president, who stated on multiple occasions that he was taking no salary from We Build the Wall. In reality, We Build the Wall paid its president more than $250,000 in 2019, despite the organization’s promises to the contrary.
We Build the Wall also attempted to obscure those payments by laundering them through third-party entities, including another not-for-profit corporation controlled by Mr. Bannon. Mr. Bannon facilitated more than $100,000 in salary payments to We Build the Wall’s president by directing We Build the Wall to transfer money to Mr. Bannon’s organization, and then paying We Build the Wall’s president from that intermediary organization.
In August 2020, Mr. Bannon and three others were indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for crimes related to We Build the Wall’s fundraising scheme. On January 20, 2021, Mr. Bannon received a presidential pardon on the federal matter from former President Donald J. Trump.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) thanks District Attorney Bragg and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (DANY) for their continued partnership and collaboration.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Gregory Morril of OAG Public Integrity Bureau — who is cross designated as a Special Assistant District Attorney at DANY — along with DANY Assistant District Attorneys Michael Frantel and Daniel Passeser, under the supervision of Gary T. Fishman, Director of the Crime Proceeds Strike Force and Special Advisor to the Criminal Justice Division at OAG, OAG Public Integrity Bureau Chief Gerard Murphy, Assistant District Attorney Julieta V. Lozano, Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau; Executive Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, Special Advisor to the Investigations Division; and Executive Assistant District Attorney Susan Hoffinger, Chief of the Investigation Division.
OAG Legal Support Analysts Crystal Bisbano and Grace Koh and former Legal Support Analyst Jack Jones also assisted with the case, as did DANY Senior Financial Intelligence Unit Administrator Rosalind October, Financial Intelligence Analyst Darya Dergacheva, Paralegals Jackson Howell and Willa Grimes, and former paralegals Anna Kuritzkes and Nicholas Manriquez of the DANY Major Economic Crimes Bureau. Assistance was also provided by OAG Detective Alexandre Ramirez of the Investigations Division under the supervision of Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes, DANY investigators Jeremy Rosenberg, Supervising Rackets Investigator, and Miguel Pena and Anthony Santoro, Senior Rackets Investigators.
Additional assistance was provided at DANY by Kenneth Zorn, Forensic Accountant Investigator, under the supervision of Irene Serrapica, Principal Deputy Bureau Chief of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations Bureau, and Robert Demarest, Chief of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations Bureau; Borislav Vestfrid, Senior Computer Forensic Analyst, under the supervision of Steven Moran, Director of the High Technology Analysis Unit; and Olivia Savell, Privilege Review Data Specialist, under the supervision of Caroline Serino, Deputy Chief of the Privilege Review Unit and Shannon Goldberg, Chief of the Privilege Review Unit.
The OAG Investigations Division and the Public Integrity Bureau are part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
Criminal charges are accusations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty at trial or by plea.