Prosecutors say that Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser to FinCEN, photographed what are called suspicious activity reports, or SARs, and other sensitive government files and sent them to an unnamed reporter, in violation of U.S. law.
Edwards is being charged in the Southern District of New York 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 five years in prison.
The charges are the latest indication of the Trump administration’s efforts to root out alleged leakers within the government, something that prosecutors emphasized in announcing the charges on Wednesday.
“We hope today’s charges remind those in positions of trust within government agencies that the unlawful sharing of sensitive documents will not be tolerated and will be met with swift justice by this Office,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
They included leaks about suspicious transactions made by Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Gates, Manafort’s longtime business partner who also served on the Trump campaign and the transition team. Both individuals were charged in connection with Mueller’s Russia investigation last October with crimes stemming from their foreign lobbying activity. Both have since decided to plead guilty and cooperate with Mueller’s probe.
Federal prosecutors have also accused Edwards of leaking sensitive financial information related to the case of Maria Butina, the Russian woman charged with illegally acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
FinCEN monitors the U.S. financial system for money laundering, illicit finance and other money-related crimes. The agency collects and analyzes SARs from banks, who are mandated by law to report suspicious transactions conducted by customers to federal officials.
SARs and other confidential financial records held by FinCEN are classified and access to those documents is closely monitored. Leaks from the agency are considered major breaches of highly protected material.
In addition to allegedly leaking the SARs information, Edwards is also accused of sending the reporter internal FinCEN emails, investigative memos and intelligence assessments. Edwards allegedly used an encrypted application to send files that contained or described the financial reports. Prosecutors also say Edwards saved the documents on a flash drive that they believe she had in her possession at the time of the arrest on Tuesday.
Updated at 1:30 p.m.