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Case Number: 1:19-cr-00064-GHW
Judge: Gregory H. Woods
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (New York County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: Kimberly J. Ravener, Daniel C. Richenthal and Maurene R. Comey
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Description: New York, NY - The United States of America charged Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards with conspiracy to distribute Suspicious Activity Reports.
NATALIE MAYFLOWER SOURS EDWARDS, a/k/a “Natalie Sours,” a/k/a “Natalie May Edwards,” a/k/a “May Edwards,” a former senior adviser at the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), pled guilty today to conspiring to unlawfully disclose Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”). EDWARDS pled guilty before United States District Judge Gregory H. Woods.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As she has now admitted, Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a former senior-level FinCEN employee, abused her position of trust by agreeing to repeatedly disclose highly sensitive information contained in Suspicious Activity Reports. Maintaining the confidentiality of SARs, which are filed by banks and other financial institutions to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions, is essential to permit them to serve their statutory function, and the defendant’s conduct violated the integrity of that critical system and the law.”
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, Information, publicly available information, court filings, and statements made during the plea proceeding:
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 is a felony unless necessary to fulfill official duties.
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 (“News Organization-1”). The illegally disclosed SARs pertained to, among other things, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, the Russian Embassy, Mariia 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 nonpublic 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.
At the time of EDWARDS’s arrest, she was in possession of a flash drive on which she saved the unlawfully disclosed SARs, and a cellphone containing numerous communications over an encrypted application in which she transmitted SARs and other sensitive government information to Reporter-1.
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EDWARDS, 41, of Quinton, Virginia, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of SARs, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. EDWARDS is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Woods on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as the sentence of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
18:371.F CONSPIRACY TO MAKE UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURES OD SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORTS
§371. Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States
If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.
31:5322A.F PENALTIES (UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURES OF SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORTS)
§5322. Criminal penalties
(a) A person willfully violating this subchapter or a regulation prescribed or order issued under this subchapter (except section 5315 or 5324 of this title or a regulation prescribed under section 5315 or 5324), or willfully violating a regulation prescribed under section 21 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act or section 123 of Public Law 91–508, shall be fined not more than $250,000, or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both.
(b) A person willfully violating this subchapter or a regulation prescribed or order issued under this subchapter (except section 5315 or 5324 of this title or a regulation prescribed under section 5315 or 5324), or willfully violating a regulation prescribed under section 21 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act or section 123 of Public Law 91–508, while violating another law of the United States or as part of a pattern of any illegal activity involving more than $100,000 in a 12-month period, shall be fined not more than $500,000, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.
(c) For a violation of section 5318(a)(2) of this title or a regulation prescribed under section 5318(a)(2), a separate violation occurs for each day the violation continues and at each office, branch, or place of business at which a violation occurs or continues.
(d) A financial institution or agency that violates any provision of subsection (i) or (j) of section 5318, or any special measures imposed under section 5318A, or any regulation prescribed under subsection (i) or (j) of section 5318 or section 5318A, shall be fined in an amount equal to not less than 2 times the amount of the transaction, but not more than $1,000,000.
Outcome: 01/13/2020 Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Gregory H. Woods: Change of Plea Hearing as to Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards held on 1/13/2020. Defendant Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards present with retained counsel Jacob Kaplan and Marc Agnifilo, Esqs. AUSAs Kimberly Ravener, Daniel Richenthal and Maureen Comey present. Court Reporter Eve Giniger present. Change of plea hearing held. The defendant withdrew her earlier plea of not guilty and entered a plea of guilty to Count 1 of Information 1:19-cr-064-GHW. PSI ordered. Sentencing is scheduled for June 9, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. Bail continued. (jbo) (Entered: 01/13/2020)
01/13/2020 Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Gregory H. Woods: Plea entered by Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards (1) Guilty as to Count 1. (jbo) (Entered: 01/13/2020)
01/13/2020 Change of Not Guilty Plea to Guilty Plea as to Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards (1) Count 1. (jbo) (Entered: 01/13/2020)
01/13/2020 Order of Referral to Probation for Presentence Investigation and Report as to Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards. (Signed by Judge Gregory H. Woods on 1/13/20)(jbo) (Entered: 01/13/2020)
01/13/2020 Set/Reset Hearings as to Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards: Sentencing set for 6/9/2020 at 04:00 PM before Judge Gregory H. Woods. (jbo) (Entered: 01/13/2020)