Imran Awan was arrested July 24, 2017 at an airport as he was attempting to flee the country. He was flying to Pakistan by way of Qatar – following his wife who had fled the country in March with $12,000 in cash. He has been charged with bank fraud and has pled not guilty. Imran and his brothers, Abid and Jamal, are under investigation by the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police for accessing congressional computers and stealing IT equipment.
The suspects had full access to the emails and office computer files of the members for whom they worked. A focus of the investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police is an off-site server on which congressional data was allegedly loaded without the knowledge of authorities.
Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller has been following this story since it first broke. Here is a link to his latest article which contains links to all his related articles on the Awan Saga.
The story started to become public on February 2, 2017, when Imran, Abid and Jamal Awan – along with Hina Alvi (later discovered to be Imran’s wife) and Natalia Sova (later discovered to be Abid’s wife) – were suddenly barred from the House of Representatives computer networks. The brothers had worked for Florida Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz since 2005. You may recall that Wasserman Schultz was removed as the head of the DNC after it was revealed that she had been helping to thwart Bernie Sander’s campaign.
Imran first came to Washington at the office of Rep Greg Meeks in 2004. In 2005, he joined the IT staff for Wasserman Schultz and his brother Abid joined him that same year. Imran’s wife Hina Alvi joined in 2007 and Abid’s wife, Natalia Sova, joined in 2011. Finally, in 2014 the youngest brother, Jamal, joined the DNC payroll in 2014 at the age of 20 – with a salary of $160,000.
Reports indicate that only Jamal actually worked full-time – the others worked sparingly or not at all – while collecting the highest paychecks among congressional staffers. Each of the five were paid $160,000 – well above the $40,000 average of a congressional staffer. Records show they have collected more than $5 million since 2009.
The Awan brothers provided services to as many as 80 House Democrats over the years and had access to the electronic files and emails of House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committee members. They provided their services on time-divided basis amongst the various Democratic Representatives.
After the family was barred from the House computer networks, most individual Democratic lawmakers began the process of termination – each had to terminate the Awans’ employment directly. But noticeably, Wasserman Schultz did not terminate Imran’s employment.
Amazingly, Imran Awan was still employed by Wasserman Schultz at the time of his arrest.
What makes this more unsettling is how the brothers were able to have access to the most secret of information given their backgrounds.
Abid ran a car dealership owned by the three brothers called Cars International A – CIA (that’s not a joke or a typo) – despite his employment as an IT specialist. Abid was accused of stealing money and engaging in byzantine transfer schemes with another car dealership next door. Abid declared bankruptcy in 2012 declaring debts of more than $1 million. The brothers’ company, Cars International took a $100,000 loan from Dr. Ali al-Attar, an Iraqi politician who is wanted by U.S. authorities and has been linked to Hezbollah. There were some other legal issues as well, including vehicular and drunk driving charges, a civil suit charging life insurance fraud and numerous home purchases.
Imran’s bank fraud charges stem from a $165,000 loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union. The loan was obtained in January 2017 on one of the houses Imran Awan and his wife owned. They declared it to be their primary residence when in fact it was a rental property. The loan closed on January 12, 2017. According to an affidavit obtained by the Daily Caller, on January 18, 2017, Imran made a wire transfer of $283,000 from the CFCU to two individuals located in Pakistan. He impersonated his wife on the call – and claimed the transfer was for property purchases after he was told by the Credit Union rep that his initial reason of funeral expenses was not suitable. Despite being aware that Imran was impersonating his wife and that Imran modified his stated use of funds – the Congressional Federal Credit Union made the wire transfer to Pakistan.
House IT workers have long noted the seemingly unusual relationship enjoyed by the Awans:
A House IT employee who requested anonymity said tech workers who have taken over some of those offices found that computers in some — but not all — offices were “thin clients” that sent all data to an offsite server in violation of House policies. Additionally, staffers’ iPhones were all linked to a single non-government iTunes account.
Five Capitol Hill technology aides told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group that members of Congress have displayed an inexplicable and intense loyalty towards the suspects who police say victimized them. The baffled aides wonder if the suspects are blackmailing representatives based on the contents of their emails and files, to which they had full access.
“I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point” with no arrests, said Pat Sowers, who has managed IT for several House offices for 12 years. “Something is rotten in Denmark.”
That these individuals had access to the highest levels of security information is simply staggering. And House Democrats, while keeping as quiet as possible, are worried.
The FBI recently took possession of smashed hard drives from one of Imran’s rental homes. It is unclear what, if anything, has been obtained from the drives.
More recently, a laptop belonging to Debbie Wasserman Schultz – and used by Imran Awan – was found “hidden in an unused crevice of the Rayburn House Office Building. Wasserman Schultz’s office is in Longworth House Office Building, a separate structure. The laptop was later found by Capitol Police and seized because it was relevant to the criminal investigation.”
During a House Committee On Appropriations’ Legislative Branch Subcommittee in May 2017, Wasserman Schultz repeatedly pressed the Chief of the Capitol Police for return of the laptop. You may find the highly unusual exchange here. It ends with the following comments:
DWS: I don’t understand how that is possible. Members’ equipment is members’ equipment. My understanding is the Capitol Police is not able to confiscate members’ equipment when the member is not under investigation. It is their equipment and it is supposed to be returned.
Chief: I think there are extenuating circumstances in this case, and working through my counsel and the necessary personnel, if that in fact is the case, and with the permission of through the investigation, then we’ll return the equipment. But until that happens we can’t return the equipment.
DWS: I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way and you should expect that there will be consequences.
On July 19, 2017, Fox News reported that Wasserman Schultz had been fighting the Capitol Police over the laptop access since its seizure but had finally agreed to allow a “scan” of the computer:
Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz plans to allow federal investigators to scan a laptop belonging to her as part of a complex probe into allegations of computer theft, over-billing and possible email hacking.
U.S. Capitol Police have had the laptop for months and until now had been unable to get access. It’s unclear why the Florida lawmaker and ousted Democratic National Committee chairwoman had been battling law enforcement over the computer; however, her counsel began negotiating this week with Capitol Police in connection with the probe.
As of now, it is unknown what further steps or investigation of the laptop has been undertaken.
Democrats have been suspiciously quiet. Those that have spoken have made mention of Islamophobia. The New York Times, after ignoring the issue for months, finally came out with a dismissive article that entirely skirted major segments of the story.
Meanwhile, Imran Awan has gotten himself an attorney. And quite a high-powered one at that. Imran’s attorney is Chris Gowen.
According to Conservative Review, Gowen “began his legal life as a public defender but left that job for the Bill Clinton White House. At the time, he also worked for then-Senator Hillary Clinton. Years later, he jumped on board Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, directing advance operations there…Gowen worked with several controversial Clinton projects, including The Clinton Global Initiative, The Clinton Foundation, and The Clinton Health Access Initiative.”
You may find Chris Gowen’s statement on the Imran Awan case here.
I have been following this fascinating – and puzzling – story for five months now. It continues to grow more intriguing. The charges of bank fraud are almost certain to morph into far more serious charges.
As Andrew McCarthy of National Review noted, “this is no run-of-the-mill bank-fraud case”.