WASHINGTON – Paul Erickson, a Republican operative who dated a woman accused of spying on the U.S. on behalf of Russia, was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
Erickson was indicted on Tuesday in South Dakota in what prosecutors described as a two-decades-long scheme to attract investors then use the cash to enrich himself.
He pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 11 counts and was released on bond.
Erickson, 56, made headlines due to his relationship with Maria Butina, who was arrested last year and accused of failing to register as a foreign agent for Russia.
Butina pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to act as an agent for the Kremlin without registering in the United States.
Butinaadmitted to attempting to infiltrate political groups on behalf of the Kremlin, including the National Rifle Association. Prosecutors said she interacted with political groups such as the NRA to exploit those connections in hopes of advancing Russian interests.
Erickson’s case, filed in South Dakota, does not relate to Russian officials, Butina or the criminal case filed against her in Washington.
Maria Butina, who was indicted on a charge of conspiracy to influence American politics, pleaded guilty and is working with prosecutors.
The indictment alleges Erickson, from 1996 to 2018, used three businesses to attract investors: Compass Care, Inc., a senior care business, Dignity, LLC, a wheelchair venture, and a third unnamed business to develop land for single-family homes.
Federal prosecutors alleged all three ventures were “part of a scheme and artifice to defraud” where Erickson made false statements about the companies and how much others would make in return for investments, the indictment states.
The indictment outlines hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments that Erickson then wired to his account and used for himself.
The Argus Leader reported last summer that Erickson had been accused by various associates of cheating them out of money. One of those ventures was Compass Care, which Erickson promoted as a Christian nursing home company.
Contributing: Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
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