An employee of the Treasury Department has been charged Wednesday to have disclosed confidential government reports on suspicious financial transactions related to the investigation of the special adviser on Russian electoral interference and Trump members.
The allegations reflect the latest move in Trump's administration effort to eradicate escapes within the government. Earlier this week, a former member of the Senate staff pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI agents in a separate leakage investigation.
The Treasury case focuses on a dozen stories published by BuzzFeed News describing reports of suspicious activity, or SAR, that are generated by banks when a financial transaction may involve illegal activities.
Prosecutors accused Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards of the unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity and conspiracy reports. The charges were filed with the federal court in New York, but his first appearance in court in Northern Virginia is scheduled, officials said.
Edwards, 40, works as a senior consultant in the Treasury Department's financial crime network, often as "FinCEN."
Geoffrey S. Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Edwards "betrayed his position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information."
The stories mentioned in the criminal complaint filed against Edwards correspond to the titles, words and information contained in BuzzFeed News stories, even if court documents did not identify the company by name. These stories often focused on reports of suspicious activity related to key figures in the investigation conducted by Special Advisor Robert S. Mueller III, including former Trump campaign president Paul Manafort, Russian diplomats and other Trump members. .
The last of these stories was published on Monday, always drawing largely on the SAR reports.
Approximately 2 million of suspicious activity reports were archived in 2017 by banks, money service companies, casinos and others, according to FinCEN officials. Alone, suspicious activity reports do not mean much. But taken with other evidence, they can help guide investigators on specific transactions that could result in financial crimes.
The 18-page criminal complaint describes a search for Edwards's phone and a key that he owned, on which FBI agents say they found a long digital record of his interactions with journalists, in which he shared SARS reports.
"Most of the files have been saved to a folder on the flash drive titled" Debacle – Operation-CF "and subfolders with names like" Debacle Emails Asshat "," said the complaint. "It is not known that Edwards is involved in FinCEN projects or official activities bearing these file titles or coded names."
Flash unit files "appear to contain thousands of SARs, along with other highly sensitive materials related to Russia, Iran and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," reports the complaint.
When FBI agents questioned Edwards on Tuesday, she initially denied contact with the journalist whose name appears in the stories in question, so "He changed his account and admitted that on numerous occasions, he accessed SAR on his computer, he photographed them and sent those photos to Reporter-1 "using an encrypted application on his phone, according to the complaint.
He said that Edwards referred to herself as an informant in the interview, but added as he had previously filed a complaint concerning his work, which did not concern the revelations of the SAR.
The c: our documents also indicate that the FBI investigated one of Edwards's chiefs, an associate director of FinCEN, noting that that person exchanged 325 text messages with the journalist in question during the month in where the first story appeared, quoting SAR reports.
A FinCEN spokesman said Edwards was put on administrative leave. He did not answer a question about the status of the associate director referred to in the indictment
A BuzzFeed representative did not immediately return a call for a comment.