Paul Erickson, the Republican operative best known for his romantic relationship with convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted on unrelated charges.
On Wednesday a federal grand jury in South Dakota indicted Erickson on 11 counts of wire fraud and money laundering charges, according to ABC News. Although these charges are unrelated to the claims against Butina, they shine an unflattering spotlight on Erickson as he continues to reel from the fallout of his romantic association with a person who was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian state.
"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," reads the indictment. "Erickson owned and operated Compass Care, Inc., Investing with Dignity, LLC, and an unnamed venture to develop land in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. 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."
In terms of the Butina case, Erickson has been under suspicion since as part of her plea deal Butina acknowledged that she had "agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official ("Russian Official") and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General." Although the other person was unnamed and merely identified as "U. S. Person 1," sources identified that individual as Erickson to ABC News. Meanwhile it is believed that Alexander Torshin, the former deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was the "Russian Official" described in that agreement.
Erickson has reportedly been notified that he is the target of an ongoing federal investigation, although that probe is separate from the South Dakota charges.
When discussing the Butina case with Salon for an interview published last month, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul detailed the precise nature of why her relationship with top political officials was so troubling.
"People should have a right to interact, as long as they're not violating any laws," McFaul told Salon. "At the same time, we now know that she was violating at least one law at not declaring herself as a foreign agent. What the fine line is between those two things is a hard one, and I hope that we make sure we expose Russian subversive activities in our country, and at the same time, don't make illegal any interaction with Russians for generally."