By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former employee of the Monday Department of Exchequer pleaded guilty to the release of secret documents to former Trump chairman Paul Manafort and others to a reporter from the digital media company BuzzFeed.
Natalie May Edwards, who was a senior consultant in the Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), pleaded with one conspiracy charge before Greek District Judge Gregory Woods in Manhattan.
Edwards, 41, acknowledged that she had disclosed suspicious activity reports, which sent banks to alert the law enforcement to illegal transactions, to an unauthorized reporter using an encrypted messaging program.
"I'm sorry for what I've done," she said in court.
Edwards' solicitor, Marc Agnifilo, told reporters after the hearing that his client believed that she had good reason to disclose the reports.
"I think that she thought that the government agencies that are responsible for handling these things had certain critical facts that were not being dealt with in the right way," Agnifilo said.
He is due to be sentenced to Edwards on 9 June. As part of its plea agreement, it has given the right to appeal any surrender of six months or less.
Edwards was charged in October 2018. Prosecutors starting in October 2017 said Edwards had disclosed suspicious activity reports relating to Manafort, who had long been associated with Rick Gates, Russian embassy and others.
These leaks formed the basis of a series of articles that appeared in BuzzFeed under the investigation of former Robert Special Counsel who co-ordinated the Russian campaign by President Donald Trump 2016, which prosecutors said.
In his final report, Mueller said that he had not received evidence of such coordination.
Gates pleaded guilty to crimes – including tax fraud – and agreed to cooperate with authorities. He was imprisoned 45 days in the last month.
Manafort in Virginia was convicted of financial fraud in August 2018 and is now serving a 7-1 / 2 year prison sentence.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)