A senior-level advisor at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has been arrested and charged with unlawfully disclosing Suspicious Activity Reports, filed by banks and financial firms under the Bank Secrecy Act.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards allegedly “betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information [in SARs] to an individual not authorized to receive them,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement following the Oct. 17 arrest.
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.
According to the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, beginning in approximately October 2017, Edwards unlawfully disclosed numerous SARs to a reporter, the substance of which were published over the course of approximately 12 articles by the recipient’s news organization. Neither the reporter, nor the media outlet, were named.
The illegally disclosed SARs pertained to, among other things, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy, Mariia Butina, and Prevezon Alexander, key figures in an ongoing investigation of Russian ties to election-year tampering and potential collusion with the members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Edwards, the complaint says, 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 allegedly transmitted the SARs to the reporter by taking and texting photographs of the documents over an encrypted application.
Edwards also, allegedly, sent the reporter internal FinCEN e-mails appearing to relate to SARs or other information protected by the BSA, and FinCEN non-public memoranda, including Investigative Memos and Intelligence Assessments published by the FinCEN Intelligence Division, which contained confidential personal, business, and security threat assessments.
Edwards, 40, of Quinton, Virginia, is charged with one count of unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports and one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports, both of which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.