In an 18 page criminal complaint released today, the feds charged Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior official in the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, with leaking "Suspicious Activity Reports" about certain financial transactions which were red-flagged by investigators. Both charges carry up to five years in prison.
Stephen Hudak, a spokesman for FinCEN, said Edwards had been placed on administrative leave. Edwards allegedly confessed to giving the unidentified BuzzFeed reporter the SARs, but claimed she thought the reporter wouldn't publish them.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that Edwards "betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information".
A spokesman for BuzzFeed declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney's office declined to comment. The charges were filed in federal court in NY but she made her first court appearance in northern Virginia. Prosecutors allege Edwards photographed the confidential documents and sent them to the reporter using an encrypted messaging app. The co-conspirator has not been charged and was not named in the court papers, and was identified only as an associate director at FinCEN to whom Edwards reported.
Charging documents revealed that an associate director of FinCEN/boss of Edwards exchanged hundreds of texts (325) with the unnamed BuzzFeed reporter.
Banks must file suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department when they spot transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering. The BuzzFeed story said the transfers were "flagged" by U.S. financial institutions. She also sent the reporter internal government emails related to the reports as well as other non-public material, including investigative memos, according to the complaint.
In October, Edwards concealed her relationship with the reporter in an interview with federal agents, according to the complaint, and denied any contacts with news media.
Prosecutors say the evidence was still on her cell phone, when she was arrested. But, the complaint says, she "falsely denied" knowing that the reporter meant to publish the information.
Edwards was in possession "of a flash drive appearing to be the flash drive on which she saved the unlawfully disclosed SARs, and a cellphone containing numerous communications over an encrypted application in which she transmitted SARs and other sensitive government information to Reporter-1" at the time of her arrest. The judge barred her from contacting the reporter as part of her release, and limited her travel to eastern Virginia and the Southern District of NY.