Treasury official arrested for leaking documents linked to Mueller’s Russian Federation probe

Treasury employee accused of leaking confidential banking reports of suspects charged in Mueller probe

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, is accused of using a cell phone with an encryption app to send the unidentified journalist photos of federal "Suspicious Activity Reports", which banks use to alert the feds to potentially illegal transactions. Each count could lead to a maximum five-year sentence.

She is due to appear in court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon.

Geoffrey Berman, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Edwards had "betrayed her position of trust".

Edwards, who is senior adviser the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as "FinCEN", was charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure of Suspicious Activity Reports and one count of conspiracy to make such unauthorized disclosures.

Charging documents revealed that an associate director of FinCEN/boss of Edwards exchanged hundreds of texts (325) with the unnamed BuzzFeed reporter.

Mr Berman said Edwards "betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information".

For a year, between October 2017 and this month, Edwards used an encrypted application to send electronic images or descriptions of the documents to a reporter, according to the indictment, at times exchanging a large volume of messages.

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Authorities say that when Edwards was arrested, she was found with a flash drive containing the confidential reports. The illegally disclosed SARs pertained to, among other things, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy, Mariia Butina, and Prevezon Alexander.

Manafort was convicted in August of tax and bank fraud charges, and in September pleaded guilty to a separate conspiracy charge, agreeing to cooperate with authorities in the Russian Federation investigation.

The charges reflect the latest move in the Trump administration's effort to root out leakers within the government. Ms Butina was jailed in July while she awaits trial. 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.

The most recent article appeared on Monday and centred on a loan made by TD Bank to Prevezon, citing records uncovered by FinCEN in connection with investigations by Congress and Mueller.

"Protecting sensitive information is one of our most critical responsibilities, and it is a role that we take very seriously", said Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The court documents also indicate the FBI has investigated one of Edwards's bosses, an associate director of FinCEN, noting that person exchanged 325 text messages with the reporter in question during the month when the first story appeared citing SARs reports.

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