Ex-Treasury official sentenced to 6 months in prison for leaking banking documents related to the Mueller probe

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.
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. AP Photo/Larry Neumeister
  • Former Treasury Department official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday.
  • Her sentencing comes more than a year after she pleaded guilty and admitted to leaking confidential documents to Buzzfeed News.
  • The banking files were related to figures tied to Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, including Paul Manafort.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A former Treasury Department official was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday for leaking tens of thousands of pages of confidential financial documents to Buzzfeed News, the media publication reported.

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 42, pleaded guilty last year, admitting she leaked Suspicious Activity Reports related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election.

Leaked documents included reports on former President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates, the Russian Embassy, and Maria Butina.

Edwards also leaked documents that became part of the FinCEN files, which were covered by a consortium of more than 100 international news organizations. The project exposed potential corruption in the global banking system and led several counties to reform their financial laws.

Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, are highly confidential documents that banks submit to the Treasury Department when they notice potentially suspect financial activity.

As a senior department official, Edwards had access to those filings and ultimately sent more than 50,000 pages’ worth to BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold. The indictment, which federal prosecutors in Manhattan first brought in 2018, didn’t mention Leopold by name but cited the articles he wrote about the Mueller investigation and FinCEN files.

Edwards pleaded guilty in 2020, though her sentencing was repeatedly delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. At Edwards’s sentencing hearing Thursday, her defense attorney Stephanie Carvlin said Edwards leaked the files as a whistleblower because the Treasury Department wasn’t properly handling them, according to Politico.

In a statement Thursday, BuzzFeed News spokesperson Matt Mittenthal condemned the six-month sentence from US District Court Judge Gregory Woods.

“Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards is a brave whistleblower,” Mittenthal told Politico. “She fought to warn the public about grave risks to America’s national security, first through the official whistleblower process, and then through the press. She did so, despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves.”

On Twitter, Leopold said the leaks played a valuable public service.

“Natalie Edwards made these disclosures despite tremendous personal risk, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves,” Leopold wrote. “Her disclosures has helped to inspire major financial reform and legal action in the United States, the EU, and countries around the world.”

The sentencing comes at a moment when the Justice Department is under scrutiny for secretly seizing the records of journalists at The New York Times, CNN, and The Washington Post during Donald Trump’s administration in order to investigate leaks. It’s not clear whether, as part of its investigation, the department obtained phone records from Leopold.