The GoFundMe Border Wall Was Illegally Built, The City Says. Now The Landowner Could Face Jail Time.
New Mexico city officials say permits were never issued for the controversial border wall project. The landowner could face up to 90 days in jail.
The controversial crowdfunded wall built along the New Mexico border was illegally constructed, city officials say, charging the landowner where the wall was erected with building without a permit, a crime punishable by up to three months in jail.
City officials in Sunland Park, New Mexico, said in a court filing this month neither landowner George Cudahy nor the group We Build The Wall had obtained the necessary building permits to construct the multimillion-dollar barrier along the US-Mexico border over Memorial Day weekend.
About two weeks later, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) — the agency responsible for managing waterways between the US and Mexico — said construction crews also failed to obtain authorization to build a gate that crossed onto federal land.
Cudahy, the CEO of American Eagle Brick Company, could face up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine for the violation. According to a complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News, Cudahy submitted an incomplete application to erect the half-mile wall, and no permit had been issued for its construction.
"The permits have not been issued due to the application being incomplete and still awaiting review," said the complaint dated May 28. "Furthermore, the construction has continued."
The We Build The Wall campaign was founded by Brian Kolfage, a decorated Iraq War veteran with an extensive history of creating and profiting from fake, inflammatory news and conspiracy theories. Kolfage launched the viral crowdfunding effort to privately fund a wall along the US-Mexico border last year, raising more than $23 million before it was shut down.
But local and federal officials have accused We Build The Wall organizers of rushing the project without the proper documentation or permits required of any construction project of that size.
Sunland Park initially sent We Build The Wall a cease-and-desist letter, but allowed construction of the barrier to continue. In a press conference, Mayor Javier Perea said construction would be allowed to move forward as long as organizers resumed compliance efforts.
But the city claims that never happened, despite the project being completed.
According to the complaint, city officials first learned about the construction on May 23. Two city officials visited the construction site to ask for building permits, but were instead told to leave.
The following day, Cudahy went to City Hall to obtain the required permit applications and submitted them, but city officials say the submissions were incomplete and no permits were issued. A spokesperson for the city told BuzzFeed News that permit fees for the project had been paid.
After most of the wall was constructed, We Build The Wall crews added a gate at the base of the wall on federal land without obtaining required permits, international water officials said.
The IBWC has ordered the gate remain open during the day so workers can continue to access a dam and the public can reach a monument on the other side of the wall.
We Build The Wall and Kolfage have gone on the attack against public officials in recent weeks, claiming with no evidence that city officials were being paid by Mexican drug cartels and that the IBWC had opened border gates to allow an "invasion".
Cudahy was ordered to appear in court on June 19, but failed to do so. City officials claim Cudahy also refused to accept the criminal complaint when he was served with the court documents.
Cudahy could not be immediately reached by BuzzFeed News for comment. A phone number for his company was no longer in service.
Meanwhile, We Build The Wall and Kolfage have claimed on social media that the project was in compliance, despite admitting that organizers intentionally tried to rush the project before city officials became aware of it.
Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist and chair of We Build The Wall's advisory board, has said the group will support Cudahy should any issues stemming from the project arise.