Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of Russian agent Maria Butina, has pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to payments he received in a real estate investment scam. Prosecutors had said he swindled more than $1 million out of business investors over 20 years.
Erickson, a longtime Republican operative of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, agreed to a plea deal on one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering on Monday, court documents show. Each of the two charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Under the plea agreement, all remaining counts in an 11-count indictment filed against him in February will be dismissed, which his attorney said will resolve “all charges leveled against him regarding his business practices of many years.”
“This ordeal for Mr. Erickson will come to an end,” his attorney, Clint Sargent, said in an email to HuffPost on Tuesday.
The investment scams appeared to be unrelated to Butina, who in December pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent.
In her plea agreement, she said she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.” She said Erickson helped her, with him having ties to the National Rifle Association.
In a two-page statement, Erickson admitted to conning investors, including one individual, only identified as D.G., out of $100,000. This followed him promising to invest the money in real estate and home construction for substantial returns.
He said he instead pocketed the money and transferred $1,000 of D.G.’s funds to an individual only identified as “M.B.,” leading to the money laundering charge.
Prosecutors had painted Erickson as a longtime scammer, who from 1996 to 2018 bilked more than $1 million from investors through various businesses, including a wheelchair business called “Investing with Dignity.” Another one of his shams included raising funds to develop senior residential care facilities.
“The object and purpose of the scheme was for Defendant to unjustly enrich himself at the expense of people he defrauded,” prosecutors said in the earlier indictment that Erickson pleaded not guilty to in February.
Butina, who served 15 months in a Florida prison before being deported to Russia, later denied being a spy and attempting to influence American politics in her first U.S. interview after she was incarcerated.