Natalie Mayflower Edwards
Source: Alexandria Sheriff’s Office
A former U.S. Treasury official pleaded guilty Monday to illegally leaking highly confidential documents about suspicious financial transactions of ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and others to reporters at BuzzFeed News.
The official, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, leaked so-called suspicious activity reports, or SARS, about Manafort, his business associate and fellow Trump campaign official Rick Gates, Russian agent Maria Butina, the Russian Embassy in Moscow and a suspected Russian money-laundering entity starting in October 2017, prosecutors have said.
Edwards, 41, continued leaking the sensitive documents for the next year.
The Quinton, Virginia, resident pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of SARS during an appearance in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, a week before she was scheduled to go on trial.
In the courtroom during her plea was her family, including her daughter, who is a high school student.
Edwards, who had held a senior position in Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, is due to be scheduled June 9 by Judge Gregory Woods, and faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison.
“We’re going to push hard for” a non-jail sentence, said her lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, who noted that federal sentencing guidelines suggest a jail term of zero to six months for Edwards.
Agnifilo, told reporters after the hearing that, “I think that she was movitated by things she thought was important,” and “didn’t trust that the government was doing the right thing.”
The lawyer said that Edwards had been “in contact with different subcommittees in Congress, with other people in the government” about the information she ended up leaking to BuzzFeed.
A criminal complaint filed against Edwards in October 2018 says she had “hundreds of electronic communications” with a reporter, “many via an encrypted application.”
After Edwards began leaking the documents, the journalist wrote articles which mentioned the details of those reports, the complaint said.
From left: Defense attorney Marc Agnifilo, defendant Natalie Edwards, defense attorney Jacob Kaplan, AUSA Kimberly Ravener (standing).
When Edwards was arrested, prosecutors said she “was in possession of a flash drive” that appeared to be the same device “on which she saved the unlawfully disclosed” SARs.
Also in her possession was “a cellphone containing numerous communications over an encrypted application in which she transmitted [SARS] and other sensitive government information” illegally, prosecutors said.