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Boyfriend of accused Russian spy indicted for fraud, money laundering

By Sommer Brokaw
Maria Butina attends a rally demanding the expansion of citizens' rights in December. Photo by EPA-EFE/Press Service of Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation
Maria Butina attends a rally demanding the expansion of citizens' rights in December. Photo by EPA-EFE/Press Service of Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation

Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department has charged the boyfriend of accused Russian spy Maria Butina with wire fraud and money laundering, officials said.

Prosecutors announced the charges Wednesday against Paul Erickson, 56, of South Dakota. Erickson is a Republican activist who Butina confessed in December to having conspired with "for the benefit of the Russian Federation."

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A federal grand jury indicted Erickson on 11 counts of wire and money fraud tied to an alleged investment scheme.

The charges say Erickson fraudulently used his three businesses -- including a senior care business and a wheelchair venture -- to develop land for single-family homes, from the mid 1990s up until last August.

"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" prosecutors said. "The charges are merely accusations and Erickson is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty."

Erickson appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. He was released on bond and a trial date has not been set.

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If convicted, Erickson could face up to 20 years in federal prison on each count, three years of supervised release, $750,000 in fines and a $1,100 payment to the Federal Crime Victims fund.

Butina pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in December involving conservative gun activist groups. Prosecutors had said she spied for Moscow, but the Kremlin denied the claim.

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