United States treasury official charged with leaking Trump-Russia information to reporter

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An senior Treasury Department employee was arrested and charged with leaking sensitive documents about figures connected to the Russian Federation investigation to a reporter, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Natalie May Edwards, a senior adviser in the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), was arrested and charged with unauthorised disclosure of suspicious activity reports and with conspiracy, according to the office of US Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

In federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan ordered that Edwards, 40, be released after surrendering her passport and posting a $100,000 bond. She's accused of leaking the material to a journalist who has not been named in court papers.

A BuzzFeed representative did not immediately return a call for comment, nor did a FinCEN spokesman.

When she was arrested, Edwards was in possession of a flash drive containing the confidential reports, prosecutors said. The charges were filed in federal court in NY but she is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Northern Virginia, officials said. Each charge can be punished with five years of prison maximum.

A spokesman for the news organization declined to comment.

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The court documents also indicate the FBI has investigated one of Edwards's bosses, an associate director of FinCEN, noting that person exchanged 325 text messages with the reporter in question during the month when the first story appeared citing SARs reports. The reports she allegedly leaked concerned not only Manafort, but his business associate Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy and alleged Russian spy Maria Butina, among others.

The investigation into the leaked reports came after federal agents identified a pattern of financial information from people or entities under investigation by various federal prosecutors' offices, including that of special counsel Robert Mueller, appearing in news reports.

Suspicious activity reports are submitted by banks to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions. Investigators said she had previously filed an unrelated whistleblower complaint and discussed this with congressional officials.

Edwards communicated with a reporter in July 2017 and saved thousands of FinCen files, including all the SARs cited in the case between October 2017 and January 2018. But, the complaint says, she "falsely denied" knowing that the reporter meant to publish the information.

Edwards is alleged to have taken photographs of the confidential documents and sent them to a reporter using an encrypted messaging app, according to court documents.

On Wednesday, the judge in Virginia said Edwards's next court appearance will be in NY, prior to November 2.

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