A former Carthage developer who was romantically linked to convicted Russian spy Maria Butina is expected to plead guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering in a South Dakota courtroom.
Paul A. Erickson, 57, who was involved in a Fort Drum housing project that was never finished in the late 1980s, tried to help Ms. Butina infiltrate conservative Republican circles and the National Rifle Association.
He’s expected to plead guilty during a hearing on Tuesday on charges not associated with helping his former girlfriend gain access to Republican leaders during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In court papers, he admitted to receiving $100,000 from an investor who wired it to Mr. Erickson’s bank account for a real estate venture in North Dakota.
But Mr. Erickson never pursued the project or paid the investor back the money, according to his statement to the court.
Posing as a Russian gun activist, Ms. Butina, 31, had ties to a powerful Russian oligarch who’s a friend to President Vladimir Putin. Last year, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison.
She was released from prison last month and deported back to Russia, where she received a hero’s welcome and a job with the Russian government.
While the wire fraud and money laundering charges are not related to her activities in this country, Mr. Erickson admitted in court papers that he used $1,000 of the $100,000 to transfer to M.B. — widely believed to be Maria Butina.
During his Carthage days, Mr. Erickson was known for his association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who in 2008 was sentenced to four years for corruption.
According to the Watertown Daily Times archive, Mr. Erickson showed up in Carthage in 1986 as president of the one-year-old company Newgate, looking to build 355 townhouses outside the expanding Fort Drum. He appeared with the company secretary, Jack Abramoff, proposing a $20 million to $25 million investment in affordable housing.
In September 1986, Mr. Erickson told the Times that he was ready to break ground after closing a deal on almost 40 acres. The project had, by this time, acquired a name — Regency Park.
The next July, the project had shrunk to 328 units and was once again ready to break ground after being delayed due to a lack of markets. The actual groundbreaking for the now 320-unit project occurred in November 1987.
By September 1990, however, Regency Park was unfinished and Mr. Erickson ended up going missing. Another developer stepped in but the project never got off the ground.
For Carthage residents still smarting over Mr. Erickson’s actions, however, it appears that Mr. Erickson the salesman was himself taken in by the Russian activist.
According to prosecutors, Butina saw her relationship with Mr. Erickson as “simply a necessary aspect of her activities,” and “expressed disdain” for him, the Wall Street Journal reports.