A Republican consultant and a woman accused of being a Russian agent conducted suspicious bank transactions that totaled nearly $300,000 between bank accounts in Russia, the United States, and multiple U.S. businesses, according to a new report.
BuzzFeed News published a lengthy look at the case of GOP political operative Paul Erickson and Maria Butina, the latter of which was arrested in mid-July and charged with secretly acting as a Russian agent in the U.S.
Some of the bank transactions triggered internal investigations at Wells Fargo. Those that raised eyebrows included:
- Roughly $89,000 that was exchanged between Erickson's bank accounts in the U.S. and one of Butina's Russia-based accounts between 2014 and 2017.
- Roughly $93,000 that was sent or received from May 2017 to August 2017 in the form of wire and standard transfers, checks, and cash deposits.
- $45,000 that Erickson wired in June 2017 and July 2017 to a Washington, D.C., law firm for Butina.
- $15,000 that Erickson wired on two occasions in the summer of 2017 to a California company set up by the brother and son of Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist who served 43 months in prison for fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion.
According to McClatchy, Erickson set up a shell company in South Dakota called Bridges, LLC, which he said was to help fund Butina's college studies at American University — which is alleged to have been cover for her reported espionage activities in the U.S. Erickson, who is said to have been in a relationship with Butina, used that account to write and sign checks even though Butina was its "sole signer," BuzzFeed reported.
Also suspicious was the roughly $107,000 in ATM withdrawals the pair had made through March 2017. Investigators are trying to piece together the details of those withdrawals and where the money was used.
Butina started the Russian gun rights group Right to Bear Arms in 2011 and allegedly tried to infiltrate the NRA while she was in the U.S. She has links to Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank who has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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