Thursday, October 18, 2018

Treasury Leaker Arrested

Federal prosecutors say a high-ranking Treasury Department official has been arrested in connection with information leaked to a reporter. The information being passed along to an unnamed reporter contained details of suspicious activity reported by banks about Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, suspected Russian spy Maria Butina and the Russian embassy.

Law enforcement officials say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, a senior advisor at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been arrested and charged with leaking confidential banking records. The Washington Post reports that Edwards, who lives near Richmond, was arrested with a flash drive that “appear to contain thousands of SARs (Suspicious Activity Reports), along with other highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” per the complaint.

The flash drive reportedly contained photos of as many as 24,000 SARs that were arranged into folders. The majority of the reports were in a folder named, “Debacle-Operation-CF.” Subfolders were assigned names such as “Debacle/Emails/Asshat.” The complaint notes drily that “Edwards is not known to be involved in any official FinCEN project or task bearing these file titles or code names.”

Suspicious Activity Reports are filed by banks when they spot transactions that could be illegal. The reports “are not public documents, and it is an independent federal crime to disclose them outside of one’s official duties,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. Banks filed about 2 million SARs in 2017.

Edwards denied wrongdoing when initially questioned by the FBI and then claimed that the documents were related to a whistleblower case that she had filed. When presented with digital evidence that the FBI had obtained from her phone that included hundreds of text messages with a reporter, she confessed that “on numerous occasions, she accessed SARs on her computer, photographed them, and sent the photographs to Reporter-1” using an encrypted phone app. The reporter was not identified or arrested but has been traced by media outlets to BuzzFeed.

The Post also reports that an associate director of FinCEN who is Edwards’ has also been investigated by the FBI. The boss, identified a co-conspirator in the complaint, has not yet been arrested or charged.

Edwards is being charged with one count of unauthorized disclosures of SARs and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A Treasury spokesman said that Edwards has been placed on administrative leave.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. called Edwards’ actions a breach of the public trust.  “In her position, Edwards was entrusted with sensitive government information,” he said.   “Edwards violated that trust when she made several unauthorized disclosures to the media.  Today's action demonstrates that those who fail to protect the integrity of government information will be rightfully held accountable for their behavior.”

Originally published on The Resurgent

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