A senior U.S. Treasury official has been arrested on charges of leaking sensitive financial reports concerning ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and other individuals to BuzzFeed News.
A complaint released by the Justice Department on Wednesday details that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, a senior adviser at Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, began leaking documents known as Suspicious Activity Reports beginning in October 2017 and continued throughout the past year.
In addition to Manafort, “the highly confidential documents allegedly leaked by the employee also were related to former Trump campaign official Richard Gates, accused Russian agent Maria Butina, a suspected Russian money laundering entity and the Russian Embassy in Washington, according to a criminal complaint,” CNBC reported.
Edwards has been charged with one count of unauthorized disclosures of SARs and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of the reports.
“Banks file SARs confidentially in order to tip off law enforcement to potentially illegal financial transactions,” according to The Hill.
The unauthorized document disclosures by Edwards are said in the complaint to have provided the basis for 12 news articles published by an unnamed news organization.
However, federal prosecutors list the headlines for six articles, which were published by BuzzFeed between October 2017 and as recently as this week.
The complaint said that Edwards “was in possession of a flash drive” that appeared to be the same device “on which she saved the unlawfully disclosed SARs.”
She also had in her possession “a cellphone containing numerous communications over an encrypted application in which she transmitted SARs and other sensitive government information.”
“When questioned by law enforcement officials (Tuesday), Edwards confessed she has provided SARs to (the reporter) via an encrypted application, through falsely denied knowing that (the reporter) intended to or did publish that information” through a news organization, the complaint stated.
The BuzzFeed articles, by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, seek to draw connections between Trump and his presidential campaign and Russian interests.
“The articles cited documents transactions pertaining to Manafort and Gates, both of whom have since pleaded guilty to financial crimes related to their consulting work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine,” CNBC reported.
In a Monday story, BuzzFeed reported on dealings of the Russian-owned real estate company Prevezon Holdings. An attorney for the company helped arrange the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, which had been billed to the campaign as a chance to get some “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement, “Edwards, a senior-level FinCEN employee, betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information contained in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to an individual not authorized to receive them. “
“SARs, which are filed confidentially by banks and other financial institutions to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions, are not public documents, and it is an independent federal crime to disclose them outside of one’s official duties,” Berman said.
In January 2017, then-President-elect Trump labeled Buzzfeed “fake news” for publishing the unverified Trump Russia dossier.
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