I love the smell of embezzlement in the morning. It smells like incarceration — and Steve Bennon is standing down wind, getting a big whiff, right now. Former Breitbart writer and associate producer of “Clinton Cash,” Andrew Badolato, has known Bannon for many years and been involved with him in more than one business venture, so if anybody knows where the bodies are buried, it’s probably him. Plus, he’s already helped prosecutors send his associates to prison to save himself, twice, so why not do it a third time? Badalato is accused of conspiring with Bannon and two others to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars from the We Build The Wall campaign, which raised millions before Go Fund Me shut it down and refunded the money. Bloomberg:
Badolato’s history of assisting federal investigators raises the prospect that he could turn on Bannon after years of collaboration, according to interviews with former prosecutors who aren’t involved in the case. Before the wall-building project, the two worked together on penny stock deals and political documentaries that have likely given Badolato insight into Bannon’s affairs.
“The two of them knowing each other well is an important piece for a cooperator,” said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor in New York. “You want someone who can say, ‘I’ve known this person for years, and this is what we did together.’” […]
If Badolato, 56, were to reach a formal cooperation deal with prosecutors, he would be seeking leniency from the government in return for his testimony at a trial or for providing additional evidence against his co-defendants. In a 2018 profile, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that a former business associate, Joseph Barquin, said Badolato taped his phone conversations with Bannon and other right-wing figures. Barquin didn’t respond to calls about any such tapes, and Badolato’s attorney didn’t respond to a question about Barquin’s claim.
The wall-building case centers on a nonprofit, We Build the Wall Inc., that Kolfage advertised as a way to circumvent the bureaucracy and litigation slowing the president’s own project. Badolato played a pivotal role, helping Bannon take control of the group’s finances and embezzle donations, prosecutors say. The charges rely on extensive text-message exchanges between Bannon and Badolato.
The criminal team of Bannon and Badolato goes way back to the early 2000s, when they worked on a public stock offering of a nasal-spray manufacturer, Sino-Fresh, where they were on the board of directors. When the board moved to oust Bannon, he sued them for self-dealing and fraud, but not Badolato. No, Bannon hired him to work at Breitbart and then the two of them produced political documentaries. Then Badolato got involved with mobsters and that’s how he came to the attention of federal law enforcement.
In 2008, Badolato took out $12,500 in loans at more than 500% interest from Louis Caputo, a former minor league baseball player who prosecutors claimed had ties to organized crime, according to federal court records in Florida. When Badolato failed to make payments, Caputo, who said he had “connections” to the Gambino and Trafficante crime families, became threatening, prosecutors said.
“I’m the wrong f—–’ guy to be slick with,” he told Badolato, according to the records.
Working with the FBI, Badolato recorded phone conversations with Caputo, according to a person familiar with the case. Caputo, who died in 2014, pleaded guilty to extorting Badolato and was sentenced to prison.
Then Badolato got involved in a pump-and-dump penny stocks scheme — think Wolf Of Wall Street — wherein two brokers he hired, took steps to bribe middlemen to sell the shares, according to prosecutors. After an FBI sting in Manhattan — think Michael Cohen — prosecutors charged the brokers, Jonathan Curshen and Bruce Grossman, with fraud and bribery. Curshen said in his guilty plea that he had “conspired” with Badolato and others. Badolato was never charged, however, because he assisted the FBI. So, with two instances of flipping under his belt, you think he’s not going to flip on Bannon?
Prosecutors are in possession of text messages between Badolato and Bannon. In one of them, Badolato said to Bannon that by pitching the We Build The Wall campaign as a volunteer project, they would “remove all self-interest taint.” It’s always good to look legit when you’re embezzling, especially when the mark is a charity.
Of course, speculation moves to Badolato selling out Bannon to stay out of prison and who knows what Bannon might do to sell out Donald Trump — assuming he has the means to do so — to stay out of prison himself? Because it doesn’t look like Bannon will be able to do a Roger Stone and get out of a prison sentence, due to timing considerations, so why stay silent as Stone did? This We Build The Wall case is one to watch.
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