A conservative political operative, identified as the boyfriend of Maria Butina, a Russian woman who admitted she was a secret agent for the Kremlin, has been charged with fraud in South Dakota, according to officials.
Paul Erickson, 56, pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of wire fraud and money laundering, the South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Erickson defrauded “many victims” from 1996 through August 2018. The indictment accuses Erickson of concocting a variety of schemes to carry out well over $1 million in fraudulent transactions, including recruiting investors for a string of elder care homes; developing a wheelchair that allowed a person to use the bathroom from the chair; and home-building in North Dakota’s booming oil fields. He also made false representations to get people to invest in the schemes, according to prosecutors.
Erickson faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud, and a $500,000 fine for money laundering.
His attorney did not immediately comment.
Erickson had been identified in court papers as “U.S. Person 1,” who helped her establish ties with the National Rifle Association, prosecutors said.
Erickson in 2015 helped arrange speeches in South Dakota for Butina to talk about freedom and entrepreneurship at a school, at a university and a teenage Republican camp.
Arranging the events followed an unusual career for Erickson that included working on Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign and making an action movie with Jack Abramoff.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.