US political activist linked to Russian agent charged with money laundering, fraud

In this screen grab from a video posted by ABCNews on YouTube, Russian spy Maria Butina (right) and American Paul Erickson sing Beauty and the Beast. (ABCNews via YouTube)
Updated 07 February 2019
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US political activist linked to Russian agent charged with money laundering, fraud

  • Russian Maria Butina admitted working with a top Russian official to infiltrate the powerful National Rifle Association gun rights group
  • Erickson is a well-known figure in Republican and conservative circles and was a senior official in Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign

WASHINGTON: A conservative US political activist romantically linked to admitted Russian agent Maria Butina has been indicted by a federal grand jury on wire fraud and money laundering charges, the US Attorney’s Office in South Dakota said on Wednesday.
Paul Erickson, 56, was indicted on 11 counts of wire fraud and money laundering on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges in an appearance before US Magistrate Judge Mark Moreno, the office said in a statement. Erickson’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Erickson is a well-known figure in Republican and conservative circles and was a senior official in Pat Buchanan’s 1992 Republican presidential campaign.
He was romantically linked to Butina, a 30-year-old native of Siberia, who pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy.
Butina admitted working with a top Russian official to infiltrate the powerful National Rifle Association gun rights group and to make inroads with American conservatives and the Republican Party as an agent for Moscow.
Butina, a former graduate student at American University in Washington, had publicly advocated for gun rights. She was the first Russian to be convicted of working to influence US policy during the 2016 presidential race.
Erickson’s indictment did not specifically refer to Butina by name, but it indicates he made a payment of $8,000 to an “M.B.” in June 2015 and another payment of $1,000 to “M.B.” in March 2017. The indictment also indicates he paid American University $20,472.09 in June 2017.
The indictment against Erickson alleges that between 1996 and 2018, Erickson made “false and fraudulent representations” to people in South Dakota and elsewhere about his business schemes in an effort to convince potential investors to give him money, the US Attorney’s Office said.
Erickson owned and operated Compass Care Inc, Investing with Dignity LLC, and an unnamed venture to develop land in the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota, the US Attorney’s Office said.
He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count as well as possible fines, the US Attorney’s Office. He was released on bond, and no date has been set for a trial.

 

 

 

Russian spy Maria Butina  pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit fraud


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 24 May 2019
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.