Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced criminal charges against former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon and said he was arrested by authorities.
Bannon and three others allegedly bilked political donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as "We Build the Wall," which raised more than $25 million. The campaign began in 2018 and intended to help pay for President Donald Trump's promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bannon, who was CEO of Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, pleaded not guilty to the charges federal court in New York City. He was released on a $5 million bond secured by $1.75 million in cash or real property, CNN reported.
As he left the courthouse he told reporters, "this entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.
Others charged in the indictment include Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badoloto and Timothy Shea.
In Thursday's indictment, prosecutors said Bannon personally received more than $1 million from the "We Build the Wall" campaign and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover personal expenses.
"The defendants defrauded hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction," Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
The four men "schemed to hide their misappropriation of funds by creating sham invoices and accounts to launder donations and cover up their crimes, showing no regard for the law or the truth," added Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett.
Bannon is the second Trump campaign strategist to face criminal charges. Former manager Paul Manafort was convicted last year as part of the Justice Department's Russia investigation.
Bannon served as Trump's chief White House adviser for seven months before resigning in August 2017.
"I feel very badly," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I haven't been dealing with him for a long period of time.
"It's a very sad thing by Mr. Bannon."
Trump added that he disapproved of the crowdfunding project to raise funds for the border wall.
"I didn't like it. I said, this is for government," he said. "This isn't for private people. And it sounded to me like showboating."
"President Trump has always felt the wall must be a government project and that it is far too big and complex to be handled privately," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement, adding that Trump publicly dismissed the funding project a month ago.