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South Dakota man linked to Butina pleads in fraud case

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota man who was linked to an admitted Russian covert agent has agreed to plead guilty in a fraud scheme that authorities say bilked at least $2.3 million from 78 people.

Businessman and conservative political operative Paul Erickson agreed to plead guilty in a filing Monday to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

An affidavit accused Erickson of promising returns of up to 150% while spending the money on personal expenses for Maria Butina, his former girlfriend. Butina was deported this year after admitting she sought to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups and promote Russia’s agenda.

The allegations against Erickson involved a variety of schemes that appeared unrelated to Butina’s case.