Some $300,000 in suspicious bank transactions involving alleged covert Russian agent Mariia Butina and GOP operative Paul Erickson are under scrutiny by federal investigators, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday.
Bank documents reviewed by BuzzFeed refer to $45,000 wired to an unidentified D.C. law firm, $107,000 in cash withdrawals, and $90,000 sent to or from Russian financial institution Alfa Bank.
Per the report, Wells Fargo’s anti-money laundering team began tracking the duo’s bank activity in 2017 after it received a referral from the FBI, which had been investigating Butina since she arrived in the U.S. in 2016. The bank, in turn, prepared reports that it shared with the FBI and U.S. Treasury Department’s financial crimes division.
Wells Fargo’s investigators told Treasury officials they could find no “apparent economic, business, or lawful purpose” for some of the transactions, and were particularly concerned about the cash deposits, which are more difficult to trace, according to BuzzFeed.
Some of this unusual financial activity apparently relates to the fraud investigation into Erickson being carried out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in his home state of South Dakota. The longtime GOP operative did not respond to BuzzFeed’s requests for comment.
Butina is currently in jail awaiting trial on charges of acting as an unregistered Russian agent and conspiring against the U.S. to infiltrate conservative groups including the National Rifle Association.
Asked about the flagged bank transactions, Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll told BuzzFeed that they showed “no illegal, or even remarkable activity.”
“As she is a Russian national with a Russian bank account, it is hardly surprising that some of her international transactions triggered reports,” Driscoll told the news site. “It is unfortunate that the FBI chose to leak information based on such reports and/or to allow its investigative concerns to become public.”
McClatchy reported earlier Tuesday that several limited liability companies set up by Butina and Erickson, who were apparently dating, also drew early scrutiny from federal investigators.