Longtime GOP political operative and ex-top Trump adviser Steve Bannon isn’t having a great week. After an arrest and criminal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering over his role in a fraud-ridden crowdfunding scheme called “We Build The Wall,” a Wall Street Journal report has revealed that Bannon is facing another separate federal investigation. The FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are reportedly looking into “a $300 million investment offering for a planned media company tied to Bannon and fugitive Chinese businessman Guo Wengui,” as HuffPost summarizes the Wall Street Journal report.
The media company that Bannon sought those high levels of investment for was to be called GTV Media Group, and, in a private document, Bannon himself was listed as the firm’s director. (Guo, meanwhile — who is wanted in China on allegations of financial fraud — was listed as the firm’s adviser and fundraiser on the same document.) As HuffPost reports, people who contributed money to the GTV Media Group project apparently never received verification of their investments, which seemingly suggests, of course, that something nefarious may have been done with the money. “Soon after the investment offering, people began demanding refunds, saying they never received documentation verifying their investments,” as HuffPost summarizes the Wall Street Journal report. The team may have violated securities laws.
When Bannon was arrested on Thursday, he was apparently actually onboard Guo’s private yacht. Guo has no apparent connection to the We Build The Wall scheme, but the possible crimes are similar in the two cases. After raising huge sums of money from Trump supporters around the country, Bannon and his co-conspirators pocketed the “We Build The Wall” cash. Bannon, for instance, “through a non-profit organization under his control (“Non-Profit-1”), received over $1 million from We Build the Wall, at least some of which [he] used to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in [his] personal expenses,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).
Each one of the two charges against Bannon in the “We Build The Wall” case could carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to that same SDNY press release, although it’s certainly unclear that the judge would actually decide on that sentence if Bannon is found guilty. Bannon, who worked on both the Trump campaign and in the White House, is one of a slew of former top Trump associates who’ve faced federal criminal charges.