The state of Florida has officially launched an investigation into the group that raised over $23 million online, in a stated effort to privately build President Trump’s proposed border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“In response to consumer complaints, including those referred by the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has opened an investigation into this charity,” Department of Agriculture spokesperson Franco Ripple told WLRN in an email.
WeBuildTheWall Inc. is incorporated in Florida, and the Department has jurisdiction to exercise oversight over charities in the state. The group was founded by Brian Kolfage, a Miramar-based Purple Heart recipient and triple amputee veteran. WeBuildTheWall is incorporated as a non-profit, using a Panama City address.
Attempts to reach the group for comment were not immediately returned.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried is the sole statewide elected Democrat and her office is overseeing the investigation. Fried and the rest of the Florida Cabinet, including Trump ally Gov. Ron DeSantis, are currently in Israel on a trade mission.
WeBuildTheWall originally planned to gift the money it raised to the federal government. But after the Treasury Department said that any money transfered to the federal government would be put in a "general use" fund, Kolfage changed his approach, saying he would start a non-profit and use the funds raised to privately build a fence in the U.S.-Mexico border.
"We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border," Kolfage said in a post on his GoFundMe page. "Our team strongly believes that we can complete our segments of the wall for less than half of the government's estimated costs on a per mile basis."
The group announced this weekend that it has started construction on less than a one-mile section of the wall, in New Mexico. A video was released over the weekend titled: “We Built A Wall … in 3 Days.”
The section is on private land. However, the group was immediately hit by a cease-and-desist letter from the city of Sunland Park, where the construction is located.
“The construction of the wall at this point is in violation of city ordinances,” Mayor Javier Perea told the New York Times.
WeBuildTheWall told the paper the project was on “strong legal footing.”
The advisory board of WeBuildTheWall consists to people who have strong ties to President Trump. Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon, businessman and US Navy Seal officer Erik Prince, former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke Jr., and former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach are among members of the board.