Leader of campaign to fund Trump border wall to plead guilty to conspiracy, tax charges

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NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) - A decorated U.S. Air Force veteran accused of defrauding donors in a fundraising campaign to help former President Donald Trump build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and three tax charges.

The U.S. Department of Justice revealed their plea agreement with Brian Kolfage, who led the "We Build the Wall" campaign, in a filing on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Kolfage is expected to formally enter his plea on April 21 before U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres. His lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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The government had in August 2020 charged Kolfage, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and two other defendants over We Build the Wall.

Kolfage, of Miramar Beach, Florida, created the private campaign in December 2018, 14 years after losing his legs and his right hand in a rocket attack in Iraq. He became steeped in conservative politics after returning from that country.

Prosecutors said Kolfage told prospective donors he would "not take a penny" as he raised more than $25 million, yet took more than $350,000 and spent money on a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry and cosmetic surgery, among other expenses.

The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum 20-year prison term. The tax charges, originally filed in Florida, include filing false tax returns and wire fraud.

A separate money laundering conspiracy charge is not part of Kolfage's plea agreement, according to Wednesday's letter.

Torres dismissed the indictment against Bannon last May, after Bannon received a presidential pardon in the final hours of Trump's presidency. read more

Kolfage's co-defendant Andrew Badolato is also expected to enter a guilty plea on April 21, court records show.

The final defendant, Timothy Shea, had agreed in principle to also plead guilty but changed his mind, prosecutors said last week.

"Mr. Shea is exercising his constitutional right to a fair trial," his lawyer John Meringolo said in an email on Wednesday.

The cases are U.S. v Kolfage et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-cr-00412; and U.S. v Kolfage in the same court, No. 22-cr-00201.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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