FBI Building
Law enforcement officers walk out of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2019. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Paul Erickson, an American political operative and boyfriend of alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, was arrested Tuesday and indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

According to the indictment, Erickson allegedly ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes, Compass Care. He allegedly defrauded investors through a company called Investing with Dignity which claimed to be “in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair.” The indictment also alleged he ran a fraudulent scheme that claimed to be building homes in North Dakota.

His arrest comes months after he was investigated by federal and state law enforcements, according to court documents. The FBI contacted two of Erickson’s friends about him and his businesses. One of them called Erickson “a great American who knew what was coming down the pipeline,” the Daily Beast reported.

Erickson is a conservative political operative and lawyer involved in several Republican presidential campaigns. He attended the University of South Dakota before transferring to Yale University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economic and political science in 1984. In 1988, he received a law degree from the University of Virginia's School of Law.

While studying in South Dakota, he coordinated a youth campaign for Rep. Jim Abdnor and for about a year, he served as the national treasurer of the College Republicans National Committee in Washington, D.C. Jack Abramoff, who at that time, was the national chairman of the committee, later said, “To every college Republican who contacted the national office, Paul Erickson was by far the most impressive person they had ever encountered in politics.” Erickson also worked as the national political director and campaign manager for the 1992 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan.

He worked as an executive producer of Red Scorpion, an anti-communist action film produced by Jack Abramoff. And between 1993 and 1994, he worked as the media adviser, agent and lawyer for John Wayne Bobbit, the man whose wife had cut of his penis with a kitchen knife. Erickson booked Bobbit on an international tour of “Love Hurts” during which, he also made appearances on television shows.

In 1997, Erickson founded Compass Care and it led to senior care consulting by-products, independent living communities and licensing of medical technology. However, the companies have managed to accumulate at least seven known civil court judgments against them. In two of those cases, investors filed lawsuits against Erickson alleging that he predicted investment returns of 25-100 percent but none of the investors received any returns and Erickson went back on his promises of refunding the original investments. Though one of the investors won $115,417 in 2003 and another won a judgment for $190,000 in 2008, two of Erickson’s lawyers withdrew from the second case after he wrote one of them a bad check.

With his ties to the National Rifle Association and the Russian gun rights community, he supported his girlfriend B

utina, the founder of a Russian gun rights group called “The Right to Bear Arms” and in 2016, they started a business in South Dakota called “Bridges LLC.”

In 2016, during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he attempted to make a link between the NRA and the Russian government and sent an email to Trump’s campaign adviser Rick Dearborn and then-senator Jeff Sessions to set up a meeting between Trump and the Russian president Vladimir Putin at the annual NRA convention with “Kremlin Connection” as the subject.

Although Erickson has never been married, he was living with Butina and they were in a relationship since 2013. Butina, who is currently in a U.S. prison on charges of spying, however, claimed she was using Erickson to advance Russian national interests and expressed contempt toward him.

In the money laundering portion of the indictment against Erickson, there is a $20,472.09 payment from one of his accounts to American University in 2017 when Butina was allegedly studying there.