IRS worker charged with leaking Michael Cohen bank info

Federal prosecutors in California unveiled criminal charges on Thursday against an IRS investigator for leaking suspicious financial reports associated with President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, allegedly giving banking information on Cohen to lawyer Michael Avenatti, who was then locked in a legal fight with the President over hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

An investigative analyst for the IRS Criminal Investigative Division in San Francisco, John Fry is alleged to have searched files for 'Suspicious Activity Reports' about Cohen, giving the information to Avenatti, who then tweeted out the material on May 8, 2018.

ExploreThe criminal complaint charges that the information Fry released was later published by the Washington Post on May 8, and then by the New Yorker on May 16.

It was not immediately clear how Fry and Avenatti knew each other.

The information which was released centered on a series of banking transactions involving Cohen - which had been flagged by federal officials - totaling over $6 million, and included questions about possible 'fraudulent and illegal financial transactions' by Cohen in 'Singapore, Hungary, Malaysia, Canada, Taiwan, Kenya, and Israel.'

The feds allege that Avenatti then funneled the information to the Washington Post; a few days later, Fry and 'Reporter-1' - Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker - exchanged a series of WhatsApp messages about the same banking information.

In the days that followed, Avenatti tried to create more media interest in the story by tweeting about the information.

"Why is no media outlet doing a story on the refusal of the Treasury Department to release to the public the 3 Suspicious Activity Reports that were filed concerning Essential Consultants, LLC's bank account?" Avenatti tweeted on May 9, 2018.

After the release of the Fry charges on Thursday, Avenatti denied wrongdoing.

"Neither I nor R. Farrow (Reporter-1) did anything wrong or illegal with the financial info relating to Cohen’s crimes," Avenatti said on Twitter in a post on Thursday evening, as he claimed that Fry had not violated the Bank Secrecy Act by disclosing the SAR information.

Prosecutors said if Fry was convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in prison, and a fine of $250,000.

ExploreThis is the second time charges have been brought in the past year over leaks of bank transaction information about people with links to President Trump.

In October of 2018, charges were filed against an official in the Treasury Department for illegally leaking financial information about bank transactions by certain people involved in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Those disclosures by Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior official in the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, pertained to 'suspicious transactions' related to Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, Russian diplomatic accounts, and other matters.

"At the time of EDWARDS’s arrest, she was in possession of a flash drive appearing to be the 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," the Justice Department said at the time.

That 'Reporter-1' was also Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker.

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