U.S. Postal Inspection Service officers hauled former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon off of an exiled Chinese billionaire’s yacht and into court on Thursday as authorities say he was one of four charged in an alleged scheme tied to the southern border wall.
The four are involved with the “We Build The Wall” group, whose board features former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling, though Schilling was not named in the indictment. The former Red Sox ace declined an interview with the Herald.
The organizers of the “We Build The Wall” group portrayed themselves as eager to help the president build a “big beautiful” barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, as he promised during the 2016 campaign. They raised more than $25 million from thousands of donors and pledged that 100% of the money would be used for the project.
But according to the criminal charges unsealed Thursday, much of the money never made it to the wall. Instead, it was allegedly used to line the pockets of group members, including Bannon, who served in Trump’s White House and worked for his campaign. He allegedly took over $1 million, using some to secretly pay co-defendant Brian Kolfage, the founder of the project, and to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, according to prosecutors.
The magistrate judge approved Bannon’s release on $5 million bail, secured by $1.75 million in assets after the former Trump adviser pleaded not guilty.
Neither Bannon nor his spokesperson nor attorney responded to requests for comment Thursday from The Associated Press. Kolfage did not respond either. Also charged were Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea, the owner of an energy drink company called Winning Energy. The company’s cans feature a cartoon superhero image of Trump.
Bannon was taken into custody around 7 a.m. Thursday by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on a 150-foot luxury yacht called Lady May, which was off the coast of Connecticut, authorities said. The boat is reportedly owned by exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and currently for sale for nearly $28 million.
Other prominent members of the wall group included former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, its general counsel; Erik Prince, founder of the controversial security firm Blackwater; former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado; and Schilling. None of them were named in the indictment.
Schilling became a postseason hero for the Red Sox during the team’s 2004 World Series championship run, hurling the legendary “bloody sock” game against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. His video game company, 38 Studios, moved to Rhode Island in 2010 in exchange for a $75 million loan guarantee — and then tanked.
— Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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