Natalie May Edwards, a US Department of Treasury employee assigned to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), was arrested by federal law enforcement on Wednesday. According to a press release from US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman’s office, Edwards is being charged with “one count of unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports (SARs) and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity report.”
According to Reuters, Edwards — who is described as being a senior FinCEN employee — passed along “confidential documents” related to Robert Mueller’s investigation of Paul Manafort and the possible “election hacking” by the Russian government to a Buzzfeed reporter starting in 2017.
“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,” said Berman in a press release. “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. We hope today’s charges remind those in positions of trust within government agencies that the unlawful sharing of sensitive documents will not be tolerated and will be met with swift justice by this Office.”
While being questioned by federal authorities on Tuesday, Edwards described herself as a “whistleblower.” Her attorney Peter Greenspun did not give any comment when asked by reporters.
FinCEN stated that Edwards has been placed on “administrative leave.” According to the organization’s website, FinCEN is mandated to protect the US financial system, stop money laundering, and collect financial intelligence for use by other governmental organizations. The group accomplishes these tasks by gathering and analyzing financial transaction records to detect crime.
“In her position, Edwards was entrusted with sensitive government information,” said William F. Sweeney, Jr, the FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge. “As we allege here today, 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.”
When federal officials arrested Edwards, a flash drive containing the SARs along with a cell phone with encrypted messages between Edwards and the Buzzfeed reporter were found.
The FinCEN employee went before a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday, but was released on $100,000 bond after giving up her passport. She faces a maximum of five years in prison for each offense.