Steve Bannon, a former political advisor of US President Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in federal court on Thursday.
Bannon and three other leaders of this “We Built the Wall” online fundraising effort were detained and charged with defrauding thousands and thousands of donors.
The effort raised over $25 million ($21.1 million).
They were each charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 decades.
Looking in his hearing, Bannon had his hands cuffed in front of him while some big, white mask covered most of his face.
Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said in a statement that”the defendants allegedly engaged in fraud if they misrepresented the genuine usage of donated funds.”
“As mentioned, not only did they lie, they schemed to conceal their misappropriation of funds from producing sham statements and invoices to launder contributions and cover up their crimes, showing no respect for the law or the fact,” he added.
According to prosecutors, Bannon, 66, obtained $1 million ($840,000) in the internet fundraising effort through a nonprofit organization under his management, thousands and thousands of which were utilized to pay his expenses.
Another of those defendants,” Brian Kolfage, a 38-year-old US Air Force veteran, also received $350,000 in funds for his private use.
The indictment noted that the defendants had repeatedly assured donors that 100 percent of their donated funds could go towards the building of the wall.
Bannon was appointed chair of Trump’s presidential campaign — were building a wall across the boundary with Mexico was a crucial pledge — in August 2016 and served at the government as an adviser to the president before August 2017.
Before these functions, Bannon founded and conducted Breitbart News, a conservative news website, along with co-founded Cambridge Analytica, a British governmental consulting company that was later discovered to have acquired the private data of millions of Facebook users.
After he had been pushed out of the White House, Bannon put his sights on Europe at which he expected to ease an increase in far-right politics however failed to collect sufficient momentum because of his movement.