A former top Treasury Department official pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy for leaking confidential banking reports associated with members of the Trump campaign, following her dramatic arrest in October 2018 as she toted a flash drive full of sensitive documents.
Natalie Edwards, 41, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court, where U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods set sentencing for June 9. Although the conspiracy charge carried a potential penalty of up to five years in prison, Edwards signed a plea deal with prosecutors that recommended a potential prison sentence of zero to six months.
Edwards was a senior adviser at Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN. Prosecutors said her crime began in October 2017 and continued for a year, with Edwards sending a BuzzFeed News reporter numerous Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”). Banks must file SARs with the Treasury Department when they spot transactions raising questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering, but federal law strictly limited their disclosure.
The SARs related to wire transfers made by Paul Manafort and other figures in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including campaign official Richard Gates, Maria Butina and the Russian Embassy.
As law enforcement swooped in, she was carrying a government-issued USB flash drive containing not only thousands of SARs, but also “highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran, and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” prosecutors said.
“Edwards is not known to be involved in any official FinCEN project or task bearing these file titles or code names,” prosecutors said at the time.