A South Dakota man who admitted to stealing more than a million dollars from investors received a last-minute pardon from President Donald Trump.
Paul Erickson also made national headlines because of his relationship with Russian agent Maria Butina.
In our 2017 KELOLAND News investigation “The KELOLAND Kremlin Connection,” we reported that South Dakota native, Paul Erickson was in the middle of a congressional investigation into collusion between Trump’s political campaign and the Russians.
In a 2016 email titled “Kremlin Connection, Paul Erickson told a Trump campaign advisor he could set up a meeting between Trump and Putin
Kennecke: I was wondering if you’d be able to talk to us about what the New York Times is reporting–about you trying to set up a meeting between President Trump and Putin.
Erickson: (Laughs), it didn’t exactly happen that way.
Erickson attended the 2016 Trump inauguration with Maria Butina. He was believed to be “U.S. Person 1” in court documents related to the Butina federal investigation.
Those documents say “U.S. Person 1” was used to help Butina make connections with right-wing politicians.
Butina was deported to Russia in 2019, after admitting that she sought to infiltrate conservative political groups to promote Russia’s agenda.
“Mr. Erickson’s conviction was based off the Russian collusion hoax. After finding no grounds to charge him with any crimes with respect to connections with Russia, he was charged with a minor financial crime. Although the Department of Justice sought a lesser sentence, Mr. Erickson was sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment—nearly double the Department of Justice’s recommended maximum sentence. This pardon helps right the wrongs of what has been revealed to be perhaps the greatest witch hunt in American History.”Statement from the White House on Paul Erickson’s pardon supported by KellyAnne Conway
Erickson pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering involving an investment scheme involving a bogus housing project in North Dakota’s Baaken oil fields. Federal prosecutors said investors were bilked of $1.2 million, not a minor financial crime. Erickson promised investors returns of up to 150% while spending the money on personal expenses for Butina. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in July.
Following Erickson’s sentencing in Sioux Falls for the investor fraud case, we waited outside the federal courthouse for two hours to speak with him. Finally I went in to ask him for an interview.
“If you want to say anything to the investors at all, I’ll give you a chance to do that.” Angela Kennecke said.
Erickson never responded.
While Governor Noem praised President Trump for the last minute pardons involving South Dakotans, a spokesperson for Noem tells KELOLAND News that she had nothing to do with the Erickson pardon.
Erickson has been serving his time in the federal prison in Duluth, Minnesota.