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Facing state fraud charges in N.Y., Bannon is expected to turn himself in Thursday

Steve Bannon, a former senior political aide to President Donald Trump, is expected to turn himself into authorities in New York state on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the case.

Bannon will face state charges that he committed fraud by improperly diverting funds donated to an organization called "We Build The Wall."

The charity, launched in 2018, raised more than $25 million after promising to help build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to curb illegal immigration.

In a statement Tuesday night, Bannon described the state-level prosecution as a part of a wider "weaponization of the criminal justice system" against conservatives.

The office of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg didn't respond Wednesday to NPR's request for comment.

Bannon previously faced federal charges linked to his involvement with the charity.

In August 2020, a Justice Department probe allegedhe helped orchestrate "a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors" including some in New York state.

The DOJ contended Bannon diverted "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to pay for personal expenses. He and others are accused of lying to contributors and then creating sham invoices and accounts to "cover up their crimes."

Bannon pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 20, 2020, after being arrested on a yacht off the Connecticut coast.

Five months later, in one of his final acts before leaving office, Trump pardoned Bannon, praising him in a statement as "an important leader in the conservative movement."

That pardon blocked federal charges relating to the Build The Wall Charity, but Manhattan's district attorney soon launched a separate state-level probe of Bannon's activities.

Bannon was a top adviser to Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. He later served as a political strategist in the White House.

He now hosts a right-wing podcast called War Room that often broadcasts and amplifies conspiracy theories.

In his Tuesday night statement, Bannon claimed the criminal charges are part of an effort to silence him ahead of the midterm election.

"I have not yet begun to fight," Bannon said. "They will have to kill me first."

Two other prominent conservatives involved in the Build The Wall charity were not pardoned by Trump.

In April, Brian Kolfage and Andew Badolato pleaded guiltyto one charge each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in the organization.

Kolfage also pled guilty to separate tax and wire fraud charges.

In a separate case, a federal jury found Bannon guilty in July on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena to testify in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.