A Senior Treasury Department employee working for the Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has been arrested and charged will leaking suspicious activity reports to Buzzfeed. Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards allegedly leaked multiple confidential reports and emails to a single reporter at the site who included information from them in 12 different stories. The DOJ press release says the leaks began last October:
Beginning in approximately October 2017, and lasting until the present, EDWARDS unlawfully disclosed numerous SARs to a reporter (“Reporter-1”), the substance of which were published over the course of approximately 12 articles by a news organization for which Reporter-1 wrote (“News Organization-1”). The illegally disclosed SARs pertained to, among other things, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy, Mariia Butina, and Prevezon Alexander. EDWARDS had access to each of the pertinent SARs and saved them – along with thousands of other files containing sensitive government information – to a flash drive provided to her by FinCEN. She transmitted the SARs to Reporter-1 by means that included taking photographs of them and texting the photographs to Reporter-1 over an encrypted application.
The press release doesn’t identify the stories or the reporter but the criminal complaint lists the dates of more than 10 Buzzfeed stories and includes the headlines of some of them. For instance, this story from August: “GOP Operative Made ‘Suspicious’ Cash Withdrawals During Pursuit Of Clinton Emails.” Here’s a sample of that article:
After scouring nine accounts that Smith controlled, Northern Trust turned over documents showing 88 suspicious cash withdrawals totaling about $140,000 between January 2016 and April 2017, including a $3,000 withdrawal six days after the election. Northern Trust found these transactions suspicious because officials could not determine the purpose of the withdrawals and because some of them took place over the time Smith was engaged in his project to obtain Clinton’s emails. Many of the cash transactions, the bank noted, were less than $10,000, small enough not to trigger an automatic alert to the government. After receiving the subpoena, the bank sent a report to Treasury’s financial crimes unit, which shared its findings with the FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and Senate Intelligence Committee investigators.
Politico reports that the FBI served a search warrant for Edwards’ cell phone Tuesday. When questioned by the FBI, she initially denied everything but that didn’t hold up for long:
Edwards was questioned by FBI agents Tuesday in Virginia as they carried out a court-ordered search warrant to access her cellphone and to search her personally. Judges previously ordered a search of her personal email account and obtained real-time access to records of whom she was calling and received calls from on her phone.
Edwards also had in her possession a thumb drive containing copies of thousands of so-called SARs, the FBI said. Some files on the drive were stored in a directory called “Debacle/Emails/Asshat,” Eckstut wrote.
During questioning Tuesday, Edwards initially denied having any contact with any member of the media, the FBI said. However, she later admitted that “on numerous occasions, she accessed SARs on her computer, photographed them and sent those photographs to Reporter-1 using the Encrypted Application,” Eckstut wrote.
Edwards is facing two counts, one for leaking reports and one for conspiracy to leak the reports. Each count could lead to a maximum five-year sentence.