The odd money trail of alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina

Maria Butina.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Accused Russian spy Mariia Butina didn't exactly hide her purported ties to the Kremlin over the past two years, when she was a graduate student at American University, and she openly bragged about connecting President Trump's campaign with Russia's government. But she was slightly more guarded with her financial paper trail, tightly intertwined with Republican operative and reputed lover Paul Erickson, BuzzFeed News reported Tuesday evening. Butina, 29, appeared to have started their financial entanglement, wiring Erickson $8,000 from her Alfa Bank account in 2014, but from June 2016 to March 2017, Erickson wired $27,000 back into Butina's account, BuzzFeed reports. In total, $89,000 passed between their accounts.

Overall, anti-fraud investigators at Wells Fargo, following a tip from the FBI, flagged nearly $300,000 in "suspicious" transactions by Butina and Erickson, saying in some cases the activity had no "apparent economic, business, or lawful purpose." Cash withdrawals made up $107,000 of that total, BuzzFeed's Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report. "Counterintelligence officers say the duo's banking activity could provide a road map of back channels to powerful American entities such as the National Rifle Association, and information about the Kremlin's attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.