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Paul Erickson, Republican operative dating Maria Butina, charged with fraud

Suspected Russian spy pleads guilty in U.S.

Paul Erickson, a Republican political operative and boyfriend of accused Russian spy Maria Butina, was indicted by a federal grand jury on 11 counts of wire fraud and money laundering, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of South Dakota announed Wednesday. 

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."

Erickson, 56, was released on bond and a trial date has not been set, according a press release by the U.S. attorney's office. He pleaded not guilty. 

Prosecutors claim Butina was actually part of a "covert Russian influence campaign," with a focus on gun lobbyists and conservative politicians, including National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Prosecutors allege Butina infiltrated those social circles using a romantic relationship with Erickson.

In December, Butina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. As part of the plea, she admitted to infiltrating influential political groups in the U.S. on behalf of high-ranking Russian officials with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she pleaded guilty to working with a deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank, believed to be Alexander Torshin.