Operative who dated alleged Russian spy Maria Butina indicted

Paul Erickson, the political operative who was dating alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, has been indicted on wire fraud and money laundering charges, the US attorney in South Dakota announced on Wednesday.

The charges pertain to defrauding investors and are unrelated to the conspiracy that Butina pleaded guilty to in December. Butina pleaded guilty in federal court to attempting to infiltrate Republican political circles and influence US relations with Russia before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Butina has been cooperating with investigators and offering information on Erickson, who helped her make inroads into the conservative groups she was trying to influence, CNN reported in December.

“The Indictment alleges that on or about 1996, through August of 2018, Erickson knowingly and unlawfully devised a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money from many victims by means of false and fraudulent pretense, representations, and promises,” a news release by the office of US Attorney Ron Parsons reads.

“Erickson made various false and fraudulent representations to individuals located in South Dakota and elsewhere, to induce those investors to give him money to invest in his businesses, which were part of a scheme to defraud them and personally enrich Erickson,” the press release reads.

Erickson was released on bond, according to the release, and a trial date has not been set.

“Mr. Erickson is anxious to let the criminal justice process play out and believes a story different from the Government’s will emerge,” Clint Sargent, Erickson’s attorney in South Dakota, told CNN.

Erickson did not immediately respond to a request from CNN to comment.

Erickson is also the target of an investigation in Washington, although he has not yet faced any charges in that probe. His attorney in Washington, William Hurd, declined to comment.

While Erickson’s charges appear largely unrelated to the conspiracy Butina was engaged in, there are clues in the indictment that some of the financial transactions may be linked to her.

The money laundering portion of the indictment notes a $20,472.09 payment from one of Erickson’s accounts to American University in 2017, when Butina was attending graduate school there.

Another $9,000 in payments were directed to a recipient whose initials are listed as “M.B.” in the indictment.

Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, declined to comment.