Accused Russian agent, GOP operative carried out nearly $300K in suspicious transactions: report

Accused Russian agent, GOP operative carried out nearly $300K in suspicious transactions: report
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A woman accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government and a Republican operative carried out a series of financial transactions totaling nearly $300,000, according to a BuzzFeed News report

Federal prosecutors say that those transactions paint a detailed picture of how the woman, Maria Butina, and GOP operative Paul Erickson funded an alleged campaign to influence American politics.

Wells Fargo's anti-money laundering division began looking into the duo's transactions in early 2017 after receiving a referral from the FBI.

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In reports to the FBI and the Treasury Department's financial crimes division, bank officials expressed concern about how much control Erickson appeared to have over Butina's personal checking account, BuzzFeed reported. 

Wells Fargo closed Butina and Erickson's personal and business accounts in late 2017, according to BuzzFeed. 

Among the transactions flagged as suspicious were tens of thousands of dollars transferred between Erickson's accounts in the U.S. and an account belonging to Butina in Russia.

Erickson also sent checks labeled "Butina retainer" to an unidentified law firm in June and July 2017. Those payments totaled $45,000, according to BuzzFeed. It's not clear why the payments were made. 

Butina and Erickson also appeared to use a South Dakota-based company called Bridges LLC to carry out transactions. Erickson previously told McClatchy that the company was formed to help Butina fund her graduate education.

Butina was arrested earlier this month on charges that she acted as an unregistered foreign agent. In charging documents, prosecutors allege that Butina acted at the direction of a top Russian official — widely believed to be Alexander Torshin — and sought to influence U.S. conservative groups.

Butina moved to the U.S. in 2016 when she enrolled in a graduate program at American University. But prosecutors say that was a cover for her real work in the U.S. At the time of her arrest, prosecutors allege, Butina was preparing to leave the U.S.

Erickson has not been charged with wrongdoing.