US boyfriend of Russian agent Maria Butina charged with fraud

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Paul Erickson, who arranged a high-level NRA visit to Moscow, allegedly cheated investors out of thousands

An American who was dating Russian agent Maria Butina has been charged with fraud, adding a new twist in the sprawling investigations into Moscow’s meddling in US politics.

Republican and National Rifle Association operative Paul Erickson was charged on Wednesday with one count of fraud for cheating investors in companies he controlled that purported to be running assisted-living facilities and building homes in North Dakota.

He also allegedly cheated investors in a wheelchair design and production company, according to the indictment, the South Dakota US attorney’s office said.

In all three cases, he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors and used some of it for his personal needs, the indictment said.

In addition, the court in Pierre, South Dakota heard he was charged with seven accounts of money laundering for transfers he made using the fraudulently raised funds.

Erickson opened the door to conservative circles for Butina, who built a network of high-level Republican and NRA contacts between 2013 and 2017 before her arrest last year.

With her, he arranged for a delegation from the NRA to visit Russia in December 2015, where they met with senior Russian officials.

That visit has come under scrutiny in investigations into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s election campaign and Russia.

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