The US boyfriend of Russian spy Maria Butina is facing charges of his own. Conservative political operative Paul Erickson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 11 counts of wire fraud and money laundering, which "appear largely unrelated" to the conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential race, reports CNN. For now, the South Dakota US Attorney's Office accuses the longtime Republican fundraiser of lying to investors for three businesses between 1996 and 2018, per the Guardian. "Erickson knowingly and unlawfully devised a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money from many victims" with a goal to "personally enrich [himself]," per a statement. NPR raises the prospect of more charges, however, referencing court documents suggesting Erickson helped Butina build ties with Donald Trump's campaign and assess other targets.
Butina admitted to trying to infiltrate the NRA and other political groups for Moscow in a December plea deal. Erickson's indictment doesn't mention her specifically, but it does reveal two alleged payments to an "MB": $8,000 sent in June 2015, and $1,000 sent in March 2017. The South Dakota native is also alleged to have paid $20,472.09 to American University in June 2017, when Butina was enrolled at the school as a graduate student. "Mr. Erickson is anxious to let the criminal justice process play out and believes a story different from the government's will emerge," defense attorney Clint Sargent says, per CNN. Another of Erickson's lawyers, William Hurd, tells NPR the charges are "unfounded" and "will be met with a vigorous defense." Their client could face up to 20 years in prison on each of the 11 counts if convicted. (Butina reportedly complained about living with Erickson.)