Red-haired Russian gun activist Maria Butina had her bags packed and was deemed a flight risk when feds snatched her, new federal court filings show.
The filings allege she was in contact with Kremlin intelligence agencies and offered a person other than her boyfriend ‘sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.’
Butina has been charged with serving as a foreign agent without registering.
Red-haired Russian gun activist Maria Butina, on the right, was told she had ‘upstaged’ Russian spy Anna Champman, left.
This courtroom sketch depicts Maria Butina, in orange suit, in federal court on Wednesday, where a judge ruled she must stay in jail until her trial
Marina Butina, a Russian gun-rights activist, founded the Russian version of the NRA and brags on social media about her support for guns and for the National Rifle Association. Now she is in custody in Washington D.C. charged with illegally interfering in the election
Anna Chapman was arrested in 2010 on charges of being a Russian spy. She pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and was deported to Russia in July 2010.
The salacious new details that led to her arrest were revealed in court documents Wednesday as part of prosecutors’ request to keep her detained as she is deemed a ‘serious’ flight risk,NPR reported.
A judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that Butina has to stay behind bars.
Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll entered a not guilty plea on her behalf, The Hill reported. Butina appeared in court in an orange prison jumpsuit.
FBI investigators found that even though Butina had a personal relationship with Person 1, who NPR says is political fundraiser Paul Erickson, she ‘offered an individual other than Person 1 sex in exchange for a position with a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with Person 1.’
Investigators said they saw her and Person 1 at a UHaul truck facility on July 14, a day before she was arrested.
FBI investigators believed she may have intended to go to Erickson’s home state of South Dakota before she was arrested, The Washington Post reported.
Erickson has not been charged with any crimes, which can be an indication they are cooperating with prosecutors.
In their investigation, FBI agents discovered messages between Butina and Alexander Torshin from March 2017 in which he allegedly wrote: ‘You have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols while you are being published with real ones.’
Butina worked as an assistant to Torshin, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia.
Chapman was arrested as part of the infamous 2010 Russian spy ring. She pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and was deported to Russia in July 2010.
The comparisons between the two red-haired beauties was inevitable.
In addition to having her bags packed, prosecutors feared she had the funds to flee.
Butina, who was indicted on Tuesday by a grand jury in Washington, D.C., has ‘access to funds and an intention to move money outside the United States,’ prosecutors note.
They also point out her lease was up at the end of July and she had boxes packed.
Prosecutors suspect she would have appealed to President Vladimir Putin’s government to help her leave the United States.
They wrote: ‘Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States.’
Batina, 29, was charged over the weekend, the day after the Justice Department announced an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election.
Law enforcement officials became concerned that Butina appeared to be preparing to flee in the wake of the announcement and decided to make an arrest, people familiar with the case told The Washington Post.
Batina’s attorney told NPR the charges are overblown.
Explosive: The arrest and charging of a Russian over allegations of election meddling was on the day that Trump said that he didn’t ‘see any reason why’ Putin would have interfered in the poll
Butina, seen in the orange jump suit in this courtroom sketch, was in court on Wednesday where a judge ruled she must stay behind bars
Inevitable comparison: The arrest and charges of Butina led to comparisons with Anna Chapman, the red-headed Russian ‘sleeper’ arrested in New York in 2010, who pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy and was send to Russian in a spy exchange.
The U.S. government was concerned Butina has been in contact with Russia’s FSB intelligence agency ‘throughout her entire time’ in the United States, according to court papers.
Among documents uncovered in her apartment after her arrest was a ‘hand-written’ note asking, ‘How to respond to FSB offer of employment?’ the Justice Department said in a court filing, according to the Daily Beast.
The FSB is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
Butina entered the country on a student visa in August 2016.
The court filings also said that she has ties to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy.
Butina was arrested and charged over the weekend with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian government while developing ties with U.S. citizens and infiltrating political groups, the Justice Department said on Monday.
It is unclear if the arrest and indictment was a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Business arrangement: Butina started a business with ex-Trump adviser Paul Erickson
Butina was reported by the New York Times in 2017 to have been part of an attempt to broker a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump.
The offer was rejected by Jared Kushner.
Butina was alleged to have acted from 2015 to 2016 as an unregistered foreign agent on the orders of an unnamed senior Russian official – meaning that the Justice Department’s indictment accuses Putin’s government of election meddling.
Butina, a fiery red-haired Russian gun activist who founded the Right to Bear Arms, the Russian equivalent of the NRA, is the first Russian held by law enforcement since the election.
Others have been indicted but remain in Russia, and no extraditions have been formally requested.
The indictment did not name the organizations and citizens Butina is alleged to have targeted – but the NRA is clearly one of them.
According to court papers, Butina met with U.S. politicians and candidates, attended events sponsored by special interest groups – including two National Prayer Breakfast events – and organized Russian-American ‘friendship and dialogue’ dinners in Washington with the goal of ‘reporting back to Moscow’ what she had learned.
Court papers do not name the Kremlin official. The person is described as a member of the Russian legislature who later became a top official in the country’s central bank. Prosecutors also note that the official has since been sanctioned by the U.S.
Butina is a Russian gun rights advocate who founded a pro-gun organization in that country, the Right to Bear Arms, in 2011 and who has been involved in coordinating in recent years between American gun rights activists and their Russian counterparts, U.S. media accounts have reported.
Butina hosted several leading NRA executives and pro-gun conservatives at her group’s annual meeting in 2015, according to the reports in The New York Times, Time and the Daily Beast.
Maria Butina allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Justice Department said in a statement. She lead a Russian gun rights group – and then allegedly infiltrated the NRA
Butina tried to arrange a meeting between Trump, when he was a candidate, and Putin
Among those who attended were former NRA President David Keene, conservative political operative Paul Erickson and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, later a strong Trump supporter.
However in May, Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee demanded that Butina be put in front of them over claims she was part of a Russian scheme to support Trump by giving money to the NRA – one of his most vocal backers.
‘The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign,’ Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a release that outlined their preliminary findings in their investigation of potential Russian influence on the election.
It is illegal for foreign money to be used to influence federal elections.
Trump has close ties to the NRA. The pro-gun group endorsed him early in his campaign and the president repaid that loyalty with two successive appearances at its national convention, the most recent in May.
Butina traveled to NRA events and posted photos to her social media accounts of her holding guns. She has also started a business with former Trump adviser Paul Erickson.
Both Butina and Torshin have ‘longstanding ties’ to former NRA president David Keene.
The Democrats also charge that during the 2016 election, Torshin, Butina and their intermediaries ‘repeatedly offered’ the Trump campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with Trump.
‘The extent of Russia’s use of the NRA as an avenue for connecting with and potentially supporting the Trump campaign needs examination,’ the Democrats said, adding that Butina, Torshin and Erickson ‘have refused to cooperate.’
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