Russian Agent Butina's Boyfriend Charged by U.S. With Fraud

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. filed fraud charges against the conservative political operative who was the boyfriend of Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist who came to America on a student visa and later admitted she was an undeclared agent of the Kremlin.

South Dakota resident Paul Erickson, 56, was indicted on wire fraud and money laundering charges for allegedly duping investors in multiple businesses he ran, including a venture to develop land in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, according to a statement issued by federal prosecutors. Erickson pleaded not guilty during a court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

Russian Agent Butina's Boyfriend Charged by U.S. With Fraud

“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, an attorney for Erickson, said in an email. He said a judge released Erickson “subject to minimal conditions.”

Erickson was identified by Butina’s lawyer as her boyfriend. Butina, 30, pleaded guilty in December to charges that she operated as a Russian agent as she befriended National Rifle Association leaders and influential U.S. conservatives. She agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, including possibly providing information on Erickson.

Erickson matches the description of a man referred to as “U.S. Person 1” in Butina’s charging documents. That person connected her with influential Republicans and wrote in a message that he had been involved “in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin” and key officials of the NRA, prosecutors said.

Bill Hurd, a lawyer who was representing Erickson last year, said at the time that his client is “a good American” who “has never done anything to hurt our country and never would.”

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