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A former US Treasury Department official who pleaded guilty to leaking confidential banking reports associated with former President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison.
Natalie Edwards pleaded guilty last year to a conspiracy charge, admitting she leaked banking reports related to people being investigated in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, center, leaves court after receiving a six-month prison sentence for leaking confidential financial reports to a journalist at Buzzfeed, Thursday June 3, 2021, in New York.
The government said the material included reports on Manafort, along with a woman charged with trying to infiltrate US political organizations as a covert Russian agent.
US District Judge Gregory H. Woods gave Edwards, who was arrested in 2018, a sentence near the top of the range in federal sentencing guidelines.
Woods called her actions “illegal and wrong” and said they “made our country less safe.”
Prosecutors had requested “serious punishment” for Edwards, saying she had betrayed the public and risked hindering ongoing and future investigations. Defense lawyers urged a sentence of time served.
Edwards worked for multiple federal government agencies before serving as senior adviser to the head of the Intelligence Division at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, also known as FinCEN, a bureau of the US Treasury Department responsible for safeguarding the nation’s financial system.
Prosecutors said she leaked several confidential suspicious activity reports. Banks are required to file suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department when they spot transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct such as money laundering.
Prosecutors said Edwards shared her information with a journalist who then shared thousands of suspicious activity reports with publications worldwide. While the journalist has not been named by prosecutors, other court documents identify him as Buzzfeed reporter Jason Leopold.
Leopold called Edwards a “brave whistleblower” who helped BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists “publish the FinCEN files, which revealed financial corruption on a global scale.”
Among other things, the stories examined regulatory failures in spotting and cracking down on international money laundering.
“Natalie Edwards made these disclosures despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves,” Leopold wrote on Twitter. “Her disclosures has helped to inspire major financial reform and legal action in the United States, the EU, and countries around the world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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