Jan. 15 (UPI) — A former senior Treasury Department official has pleaded guilty to leaking sensitive financial reports about individuals connected to President Donald Trump, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 41, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to unlawfully disclose suspicious activity reports, for which she faces up to five years in prison, the Justice Department said in a release.
“I transmitted a file containing or disclosing the existence of SAR. I am sorry for what I have done and I apologize to you, your honor, and the court,” she said in a Manhattan courtroom Monday before U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods.
Prosecutors accused Edwards of using her position at the Treasury to unlawfully distribute documents concerning potentially suspicious financial transactions to a reporter starting in October 2017 to the time of her arrest on Oct. 16, 2018.
Authorities said the SAR documents were about Manafort, Trump campaign official Richard Gates, Russian spy Maria Butina and the Russian Embassy in Washington, among other individuals and entities.
The information those documents contained produced at least 12 articles, prosecutors said.
The court document alleged Edwards would take photographs of the SARs and then transmit them to the reporter via text message over an encrypted smartphone application. She also sent the unnamed reporter internal emails from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network relating to the SARs, among other documents.
When the Quinton, Va., resident was arrested “she was in possession of a flash drive on which she saved the unlawfully disclosed SARs, and a cellphone containing numerous communications over an encrypted application” that she used to transmit the documents, the Justice Department said.
“Maintaining the confidentiality of SARs, which are filed by banks and other financial institutions to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions, is essential to permit them to serve their statutory function, and the defendant’s conduct violated the integrity of that critical system and the law,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
Edwards is scheduled to be sentenced on June 9.
Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison in March for his conviction on eight counts in a bank fraud trial. Gates was sentenced to 45 days in prison and three years probation last month on conspiracy and lying to investigator charges.