Natalie “May” Edwards has made a pact with her 16-year-old daughter: Every night before bed for the next six months, each will say a quiet prayer at the exact same time. Her daughter will be doing so from home in Virginia. Edwards will be doing so from a women’s federal prison in West Virginia.
“I am emotionally prepared as far as entering the facility and meeting the other people,” Edwards, 43, told BuzzFeed News in an interview on Thursday evening. “I am not emotionally prepared for being separated from my daughter and my husband and my immediate family.”
A former Treasury Department official, Edwards — whose decision to leak a trove of highly confidential government documents to BuzzFeed News prompted a massive investigation that exposed how dirty money moves through the global banking system and helped spur legislative action in the US and beyond — reported to Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, on Friday morning to begin her six-month sentence. The minimum-security prison is where Martha Stewart and Billie Holiday both served time.
The information she provided to BuzzFeed News formed the basis of the FinCEN Files, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor.
But many across the US are not familiar with Edwards. Labeling her “the forgotten whistleblower,” the Washington Post described her in July as “one of the most important whistleblowers of our era, and yet hardly anyone remembers her name.”
Despite losing her freedom and most, if not all, of her family’s finances waging a legal fight, Edwards maintained she had no regrets, believing her actions will help thwart future criminals and terrorists. “I’m absolutely proud of what I did,” she said, “and I know American lives have been saved.”