- Steve Bannon, a former Trump campaign adviser, was charged with fraud by federal prosecutors in New York on Thursday and arrested by agents from the US Postal Inspection Service.
- Prosecutors charged Bannon and three others with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a private campaign to build a border wall.
- CBS News and NBC New York reported that federal agents from the Postal Inspection Service arrested Bannon aboard a boat off the coast of Westbrook, Connecticut.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Steve Bannon, a former Trump campaign adviser, was charged with fraud by federal prosecutors and arrested by agents from the US Postal Inspection Service on Thursday.
The arrest came as the Trump administration faces accusations that it’s trying to undermine the Postal Service in a crucial election year.
Postal Inspection Service agents arrested Bannon aboard a luxury mega yacht, the $28 million Lady May owned by Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, off the coast of Westbrook, Connecticut, according to the Hartford Courant.
Bannon pleaded not guilty on Thursday afternoon and will be out on a $5 million bond, the terms of which include no travel abroad and no travel on private planes or yachts, like the one he was arrested on, without court approval.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced on Thursday morning that they had charged Bannon, Brian Kolfage, and two others with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a multimillion-dollar campaign to raise money to build a wall on the US’s southern border.
Prosecutors said Kolfage and Bannon defrauded donors out of millions of dollars and used their donations to enrich themselves, funneling the money through a complicated web of shell companies and nonprofits.
The US Postal Inspection Service, or USPIS, is the investigative and law-enforcement arm of the Postal Service, tasked with investigating a wide range of crimes including narcotics trafficking, mail and identity theft, cybercrime, money laundering, and fraud and scams involving the mail.
US attorneys’ offices work with several federal investigative agencies, such as the USPIS, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, to bring federal criminal charges against defendants.
Over the past few weeks, the Postal Service has been the focus of a substantial amount of attention and controversy. It’s facing serious financial difficulties from a significant drop-off in mail volume because of the coronavirus pandemic. While the Postal Service, which doesn’t take taxpayer money, is expected to remain solvent through next year, its financial state is a long-term problem.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a shipping-and-logistics executive and GOP donor, has imposed cost-cutting measures that Democrats and critics have argued will lead to unacceptable mail-delivery delays in a crucial election year.
DeJoy has asserted that the Postal Service is more than prepared to handle an influx of election mail and said it would suspend operational changes until after the election, but Democrats in Congress are considering additional measures to shore up the agency.
President Donald Trump has rejected giving emergency funds or grants to the cash-strapped Postal Service. In an August 13 interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump said he would reject emergency funding for the agency in a COVID-19 relief bill over his opposition to mail-in voting. He later walked back his comments.
In addition to criticizing the US Postal Service for the rates it charges customers like Amazon for package delivery, Trump has spread false claims that voting by mail is inherently fraudulent. In reality, rates of fraud are extremely low, and there’s no evidence that expanding voting by mail hurts or benefits either political party.
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