Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that NATALIE MAYFLOWER SOURS EDWARDS, a/k/a “Natalie Sours,” a/k/a “Natalie May Edwards,” a/k/a “May Edwards,” a former Senior Advisor at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), was sentenced to six months in federal prison for unlawfully disclosing Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”) and other sensitive information. EDWARDS previously pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to disclose SARs before United States District Judge Gregory H. Woods, who imposed today’s sentence.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Today’s sentence demonstrates that public servants who abuse the power entrusted to them will face steep consequences for their actions. Maintaining the confidentiality of SARs, which are filed by banks and other financial institutions to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions, is critical to preserve the integrity of myriad investigations, and the financial privacy of individuals. Government employees entrusted with such highly sensitive information owe a duty to safeguard that information. The defendant abused that trust to serve her own purposes, broke the law, and now faces time in a federal prison for her actions.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, Information, other court filings, publicly-available information, and statements made in public court proceedings:
The mission of FinCEN is to “safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.” Among other things, FinCEN manages the collection and maintenance of SARs regarding potentially suspicious financial transactions, which, under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), U.S. financial institutions and other parties are required by law to generate and deliver to FinCEN. Under the BSA and its implementing regulations, willful disclosure of a SAR or its contents by government employees or agents except as necessary to fulfill official duties is a felony.
Beginning in approximately October 2017, and lasting until her arrest in October 2018, EDWARDS agreed to and did unlawfully disclose numerous SARs to a reporter (“Reporter-1”), the substance of which were published over the course of approximately 12 articles by a news organization for which Reporter-1 worked. The illegally disclosed SARs pertained to, among other things, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy, Maria Butina, and Prevezon Alexander. EDWARDS had access to each of the pertinent SARs and saved them—along with thousands of other files containing sensitive government information—to a flash drive provided to her by FinCEN. She transmitted the SARs to Reporter-1 by means that included taking photographs or images of them and texting the photographs or images to Reporter-1 over an encrypted application. In addition to disseminating SARs to Reporter-1, EDWARDS sent or described to Reporter-1 internal FinCEN emails or correspondence appearing to relate to SARs or other information protected by the BSA, and FinCEN non-public memoranda, including Investigative Memos and Intelligence Assessments published by the FinCEN Intelligence Division, which contained confidential personal information, business information, and/or security threat assessments.
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In addition to her prison term, EDWARDS, 43, of Quinton, Virginia, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly J. Ravener and Daniel C. Richenthal are in charge of the prosecution.