Ex-Treasury Adviser Who Leaked Manafort Files Gets 6 Months in Jail
(Bloomberg) -- A former senior U.S. Treasury Department adviser was sentenced to six months in jail for leaking confidential financial records involving Paul Manafort and others to a reporter.
In court on Thursday, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards spoke at length about her membership in the Chickahominy Indian Tribe and the values she was taught. She told U.S. District Judge Gregory Woods before the sentence was handed down that she had repeatedly tried to blow the whistle on violations of the law within the department, both internally and to Congress, making enemies in the process.
“When I physically saw corruption in the Treasury Department, I could not stand by aimlessly as this would be a violation of my oath of office,” she said.
Edwards, 43, had admitted that she passed information about payments involving Manafort, President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, and his deputy, Rick Gates, to a reporter at BuzzFeed. Prosecutors say she leaked more than 50,000 documents, including 2,000 suspicious-activity reports, or SARs, beginning in the summer of 2017.
Edwards “engaged in criminal activity that made our country less safe from criminals and terrorists,” Woods said at a hearing in Manhattan, rejecting her plea to avoid jail. Edwards also violated the financial privacy of innocent people whose information was contained in the documents, he said.
Woods said Edwards violated her public trust by turning over confidential material. And leaking the SARs had nothing to do with any efforts to expose problems in the Treasury Department, he said.
Edwards had top-secret security clearance and access to the reports in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, which probes money laundering by studying data about financial transactions.
The case signaled an escalation in a U.S. crackdown on leaks. The government previously prosecuted former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, who pleaded guilty to giving a top-secret report on Russian hacking to The Intercept, and former Internal Revenue Service analyst John Fry, who admitted leaking SARs involving former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Winner is free after serving a five-year prison term. Fry received five years’ probation.
Manafort was convicted in August 2018 of lying to tax authorities about tens of millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine and misleading banks about his financial health to get loans. He later pleaded guilty to conspiring to lobby illegally for Ukraine, along with laundering money to support a lavish lifestyle and tampering with witnesses. He was pardoned by Trump in December.
Edwards, of Quinton, Virginia, asked for no jail time, claiming the leak was related to what she claimed were her efforts to blow the whistle on corruption within the Treasury Department. Prosecutors sought six months. Woods said Thursday that Edwards must also serve three years’ probation.
Financial institutions are required to file SARs within 30 days of detecting an incident -- such as cash transactions of $10,000 or more or those involving certain entities -- that might signal money laundering, tax evasion or other criminal activities.
In addition to leaks about Manafort and Gates, Edwards passed along SARs concerning Prevezon Holdings, a Russian company sued by the U.S., and Maria Butina, a purported gun enthusiast who pleaded guilty in 2018 to acting as a Russian agent.
The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 19-cr-00064, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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