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.
Edwards admitted to accessing SARs on her computer, photographing them and sending them via encrypted message to the reporter.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that Edwards "betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information". Buzzfeed did not respond to a request for comment.
A senior adviser at the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network was arrested Tuesday for allegedly leaking details about the office's suspicious activity reports.
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.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser at the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, was charged with disclosing "suspicious activity reports" (SARs) beginning in October 2017, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of NY said. Each count could lead to a maximum five-year sentence.
BuzzFeed declined to comment.
Information from the disclosures was reported in 11 articles that appeared in Buzzfeed over the course of a year, prosecutors said. An attorney for Edwards couldn't immediately be identified.
Edwards is now on administrative leave, according to FinCEN spokesman Steve Hudak.
According to the government, the material included reports on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and political consultant Richard Gates, as well as Maria Butina, who is accused of trying to infiltrate USA political organizations as a covert Russian agent.
Edwards was questioned by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents Tuesday in Virginia as they carried out a court-ordered search warrant to access her cellphone and to search her personally. Gates and Manafort were President Donald Trump's campaign deputy chair and chair, and they have both pleaded guilty to multiple charges of financial crimes and are now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Charging documents revealed that an associate director of FinCEN/boss of Edwards exchanged hundreds of texts (325) with the unnamed BuzzFeed reporter. The BuzzFeed story said the transfers were "flagged" by U.S. financial institutions.
BuzzFeed's reporting contained detailed information drawn from Suspicious Activity Reports. On Wednesday, she confessed to leaking the reports but "falsely denied" knowing the SARs would be published, the complaint says.
On Wednesday, the judge in Virginia said Edwards's next court appearance will be in NY, prior to November 2.