DENVER – A Castle Rock man was one of four people, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, whose indictments were unsealed Thursday on counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in regard to their fundraising effort to privately build a southern border wall.
Timothy Shea, 49, was arrested Thursday morning in Castle Rock by a U.S. Postal Inspector, according to court documents.
Shea appeared in front of U.S. magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix at 2 p.m. Thursday in Denver and was told of the charges against him, which he said he understood. He did not ask for the court to appoint an attorney, saying he had his own.
The judge accepted bond terms the government had requested. Shea had a $250,000 unsecured bond set by the judge, which he will forfeit if he does not appear in court.
His travel will be restricted only to the districts of Colorado and the Southern District New York, along with any other districts in between he needs to travel through to go to court. He will also have to relinquish his passports, though his attorney said he did not have any.
He will be under pretrial supervision in Colorado and prohibited from raising money for We Build the Wall or moving any money in any accounts tied to the organization.
He will not be allowed to possess firearms and must relinquish any he has, and will not be able to contact any of his three co-defendants except when counsel is present.
His next court date is set for Aug. 31 in the Southern District of New York at 1 p.m. ET via teleconference.
According to the indictment from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Shea got involved in the alleged fraud and money laundering activity with Bannon, veteran and triple amputee Brian Kolfage, and another man, Andrew Badolato, as a middle man who used a shell company as a way to conceal payments to Kolfage that were allegedly stolen from a crowdfunding effort started by Kolfage to raise money to build a southern border wall.
Kolfage and others launched the campaign, eventually called We Build the Wall, originally in December 2018 with the alleged purpose of giving the U.S. government extra money to build or repair sections of the southern border wall – a top priority of the president’s and his team.
The fundraiser quickly raised more than $20 million from people sympathetic to the cause, but was warned by the fundraising site that they needed a legitimate nonprofit to transfer the funds to. That’s when Bannon and Badolato joined Kolfage, according to prosecutors.
They made a 501(c)(4) company called We Build the Wall Inc. to transfer the money to, and Kolfage pledged he would “not take a penny” of compensation from the donations.
In January 2019, according to the indictment, Kolfage changed the purpose of the fundraiser to go toward private wall funding, rather than to the U.S. government, and had to convince everyone who had donated already to allow them to opt in to repurposing the money. He again said that 100% of the funds would go toward the border wall.
As part of his pitch, according to the indictment, he again stated he could not access the money for his personal benefit. Prosecutors allege the three knew those statements were false but needed to make them in order to convince people – even some who trusted the group with what little money they had – to allow them to keep the money for the now-private wall construction.
“Some of those donors wrote directly to Kolfage that they did not have a lot of money and were skeptical about online fundraising campaigns, but they were giving what they could because they trusted Kolfage would keep his word about how their donations would be spent,” the indictment says.
Most of the original donors agreed to opt in. Between January 2019 and October 2019, the group raised about $25 million, according to the indictment.
But prosecutors allege that hundreds of thousands of those dollars actually went into the pockets of the four men indicted this week.
Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato had reached a secret agreement in which Kolfage would be paid $100,000 up front and another $20,000 each month, prosecutors allege, by using “entities under the control of Bannon and Shea.”
A Bannon nonprofit received $250,000 from the We Build the Wall account and then wired $100,000 to Kolfage a week later, the indictment says. The same account sent Kolfage $20,000 each of the following two months in what prosecutors allege was a secret salary deal.
That is when Shea got involved, according to the indictment. Sometime around March 2019, Shea, who had been “involved in early operations” of the initial fundraiser, texted with Kolfage and developed a scheme to use a shell company to continue paying Kolfage and suggesting that they could create LLCs that could be paid for “consulting” or “social media.”
The indictment says that in April 2019, Shea incorporated an LLC and started receiving payments from We Build the Wall, “a share of which Shea then paid over to Brian Kolfage.” On April 22 of that year, the LLC received $50,000 from We Build the Wall, and paid $25,000 to Kolfage four days later, according to the indictment.
The indictment says Shea kept the rest of the money and made additional payments through the LLC to Kolfage with money from We Build the Wall.
But it says the payments appear to have stopped in October 2019, when Kolfage, Bannon and Badolato learned from a financial institution that We Build the Wall might be under federal criminal investigation – at which time they started using encrypted messaging apps, the indictment says.
Kolfage received more than $350,000 in funds from We Build the Wall, according to the indictment, which Shea and the others are accused of helping pass through their companies. With the money, Kolfage allegedly did home renovations, paid money toward a boat, bought a luxury USV, jewelry and cosmetic surgery, among other things.
Bannon’s nonprofit allegedly received over $1 million from We Build the Wall, and the indictment says Bannon “used a substantial portion of those donor funds for personal uses and expenses unrelated to We Build the Wall.”
The indictment says that each of the defendants “received hundreds of thousands of dollars” in funds from donors that they used “for a variety of personal expenses.”
It alleges that all four defendants, and others known and unknown, conspired to commit wire fraud and money laundering and made false statements to donors to We Build the Wall about how their money would be used.
The indictment says that all four, if found guilty, will have to forfeit any property derived from the alleged offenses. Each count carries a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison upon conviction.
“While repeatedly assuring donors that Brian Kolfage, the founder and public face of We Build the Wall, would not be paid a cent, the defendants secretly schemed to pass hundreds of thousands of dollars to Kolfage, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss. “We thank the USPIS for their partnership in investigating this case, and we remain dedicated to rooting out and prosecuting fraud wherever we find it.”
It was not immediately clear Thursday morning who was legally representing Shea. Records with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office show that Shea has two active LLCs and three delinquent LLCs. One of the active LLCs was registered in September 2019, but the other, Winning Energy LLC, was registered in January 2020 by Shea. Questions posed to the Secretary of State's Office about whether any of the LLCs were the one involved in the alleged scheme were not immediately returned.
Winning Energy is an energy drink company that advertises it gives consumers 12 oz of “liberal tears.”
Federal Election Commission records show that Shea has donated $225 this year to Winred, $100 of which was earmarked for President Trump’s re-election committee. He also donated $100 to Winred in November 2019, according to the records, which showed his employer was listed this year as Winning Energy LLC.
When Denver’s 9News spoke with Shea in December 2018 about a Castle Rock P.O. Box to which some of the early funds were being sent, Shea and his wife said they had known Kolfage for three years after developing a conservative news site for him and that they were “more focused on the backend stuff.”
Amanda Shea was listed as the treasurer on the We Build the Wall website. She donated $2,800 each to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and Trump Victory in 2019, listing We Build the Wall as her employer, according to FEC records.
Social media posts from both show them at the Trump rally in Colorado Springs, discussion of We Build the Wall, and that the couple had recently closed on a new house.
Kolfage told E.W. Scripps National Correspondent Tomas Hoppough last June that he had bought land from landowners to work on the wall.
“As long as it’s within city ordinances, no one can tell you ‘no.’ It’s that easy. And that’s what people don’t realize, is how easy it is to get this done,” he said.
He added at the time that he felt politicians were “playing games” with border security and stuffing their own pockets.
“Our politicians are holding both sides in the middle for their own personal gain, and I just felt like, maybe, I could have a difference.”