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Federal Judge Sentences Trump Russia Leaker From Treasury Dept To Six Months in Jail

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A former senior Treasury Department official who pleaded guilty to leaking confidential reports just got some bad news from a federal judge and was sentenced to six months in prison. Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 42, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate the Bank Secrecy Act when she disclosed more than 2,000 “suspicious activity reports” or SARs. She leaked to a Buzzfeed reporter who used the info to push the Trump Russia story. The leaks were used as fuel by Mueller’s investigation between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as media outlets across the world.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Woods agreed with prosecutors and gave her prison saying: “A meaningful sentence is needed in order to respond to the crime. Blowing the whistle is an incredibly important exercise,” the judge said, before adding that the confidential information Edwards released “did not have a relationship” to her complaints about FinCEN. The reports Edwards leaked to BuzzFeed between 2017 and 2018 included information about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates, the Russian Embassy and Maria Butina.

“The colossal, mammoth effect of this defendant’s crime is unparalleled in the history of FinCEN,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Ravener said. “You have an individual who acted indiscriminately to disclose confidential government information.”

Edwards seemed to paint herself the victim in her statement to the court saying she “could not stand by aimlessly” and watch the misconduct at the Treasury Department.

She added at the end, “I understand and accept that a lot of information was made available to the public. I do apologize for that, your honor. I am an indigenous, matriarch warrior whose spirit cannot be broken.”

“We’re not here because Dr. Sours Edwards blew the whistle,” said Judge Woods. “We’re here because, at some point, Dr. Sours Edwards decided to abuse her position of trust.”

Edwards’ attorney, Stephanie Carvlin, seemed to blame the Buzzfeed reporter who asked Edwards to conduct searches of FinCEN’s databases.  “He turned up the pressure,” she said. “I mean, he was good at his job.”

BuzzFeed spokesperson Matt Mittenthal denounced Edwards’ sentence:

“Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards is a brave whistleblower. She fought to warn the public about grave risks to America’s national security, first through the official whistleblower process, and then through the press. She did so, despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves.

“Because of Ms. Edwards’s bravery, BuzzFeed News, along with the 108 media organizations in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, were able to publish the FinCEN Files, which revealed financial corruption on a global scale. 

“That investigation has helped to inspire major reform and legal action in the United States, the E.U., and countries around the world. BuzzFeed News has not acknowledged Ms. Edwards’s role in the project until today, after the judge sentenced her and after Edwards herself gave permission to acknowledge that she provided the Suspicious Activity Reports.

“BuzzFeed News supports the actions of whistleblowers and strongly condemns today’s sentence of Ms. Edwards,” he said.

From DOJ:

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that NATALIE MAYFLOWER SOURS EDWARDS, a/k/a “Natalie Sours,” a/k/a “Natalie May Edwards,” a/k/a “May Edwards,” a former Senior Advisor at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), was sentenced to six months in federal prison for unlawfully disclosing Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”) and other sensitive information.  EDWARDS previously pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to disclose SARs before United States District Judge Gregory H. Woods, who imposed today’s sentence.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Today’s sentence demonstrates that public servants who abuse the power entrusted to them will face steep consequences for their actions.  Maintaining the confidentiality of SARs, which are filed by banks and other financial institutions to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions, is critical to preserve the integrity of myriad investigations, and the financial privacy of individuals.  Government employees entrusted with such highly sensitive information owe a duty to safeguard that information.  The defendant abused that trust to serve her own purposes, broke the law, and now faces time in a federal prison for her actions.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, Information, other court filings, publicly-available information, and statements made in public court proceedings:

The mission of FinCEN is to “safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.”

[2]  Among other things, FinCEN manages the collection and maintenance of SARs regarding potentially suspicious financial transactions, which, under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), U.S. financial institutions and other parties are required by law to generate and deliver to FinCEN.  Under the BSA and its implementing regulations, willful disclosure of a SAR or its contents by government employees or agents except as necessary to fulfill official duties is a felony.

Beginning in approximately October 2017, and lasting until her arrest in October 2018, EDWARDS agreed to and did unlawfully disclose 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 worked.  The illegally disclosed SARs pertained to, among other things, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy, Maria 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 or images of them and texting the photographs or images to Reporter-1 over an encrypted application. 

In addition to disseminating SARs to Reporter-1, EDWARDS sent or described to Reporter-1 internal FinCEN emails or correspondence 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 information, business information, and/or security threat assessments.