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Sarasota man indicted in border wall scheme with Steve Bannon free after appearance in Tampa federal court

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota man was indicted along with President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon on Thursday for fraud and money laundering. Federal prosecutors say they and two other men conspired to illegally siphon money from a fund intended to build a private border wall.

The Sarasota man, 56-year-old Andrew Badolato, appeared in federal court in Tampa on Thursday afternoon. Prosecutors did not ask for a bond, so Badolato is essentially a free man except for a few conditions for his release. Those included forfeiting his guns and his passport.

Badolato did not have anything to say as he left the federal courthouse. But his son Billy Badolato did – to defend both his father and Bannon. He referred to Bannon as a family friend and called both of them good men, writing this off as “all political.”

“My dad doesn’t own a single asset, he has absolutely zero money,” he said.

The younger Badolato would not comment on his father’s alleged connection to the “We Build the Wall” campaign but described his father and Bannon as friends.

Andrew Badolato, described in the indictment as a Sarasota entrepreneur, is one of the three men charged alongside Bannon. According to federal prosecutors, the four men conspired to commit fraud and money laundering through the “We Build the Wall” campaign.

The complain outlines a scheme to raise millions of dollars from donors, promising every penny for the project. But prosecutors say they siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use and then elaborately covered it up.

President Trump distanced himself from Bannon and the project on Thursday, claiming to have never met the others involved.

“I didn’t like it. I said this is for government, this isn’t for private people,” the president said.

All four men were arrested Thursday and are due in court in New York at the end of the month. If convicted, all four men face a maximum of 40 years in prison.

Thursday was the first, and likely only, time Badolato will appear in Tampa, as the case is based out of New York.

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