United States official charged with Russian Federation probe leak

Erika Holt
October 18, 2018

A senior official in the Treasury Department was arrested and charged with disclosing sensitive financial transaction reports pertaining to multiple entities tied to President Donald Trump and Russian Federation, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to a reporter.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior-level FinCEN employee, allegedly 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.

Edwards, who lives in Quinton, Viriginia, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Virginia on Wednesday afternoon, pending prosecution in Manhattan federal court on charges of conspiracy and unauthorized disclosures of SARs.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman reacted to Edwards arrest in a statement. Her attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The type of reports Edwards is accused of leaking are filed confidentially by banks and other financial institutions to flag for law-enforcement entities what they believe are possibly illegal transactions. Prosecutors said beginning in October 2017, Edwards disclosed suspicious activity reports connected to Manafort, Gates, accused Russian agent Maria Butina, the Russian embassy and a unit of Prevezon Holdings Ltd, a corporation owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv.

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The disclosures were reported in a series of articles in BuzzFeed related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible coordination between U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russian Federation, according to prosecutors.

Both counts with which Edwards was charged carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Court papers also list another FinCEN employee as a co-conspirator, noting that the person exchanged more than 300 messages with the reporter via an encrypted messaging application. On August 2, 2018, for example, Edwards and the reporter exchanged 541 messages, the indictment says.

According to a FBI agent's affidavit in the complaint, a forensic investigation into the disclosures found that some 24,000 files were saved onto a flash drive the government issued to Edwards. 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. On Wednesday, she confessed to leaking the reports but "falsely denied" knowing the SARs would be published, the complaint says.

"Edwards began communicating with the unidentified reporter in July 2017, according to prosecutors", Bloomberg reported. 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.

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