The Case of Imran Awan, and the Overpaid IT Criminals
In early February, a security probe into five individuals resulted in termination of their access to the House computer network. It was originally reported that the suspects consisted of four men and one woman, but was later revealed to be three brothers (Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan), and two of their wives (Hina Alvi and Natalia Sova). Rao Abbas, a freind of Imran Awan, was also later added to the payroll as IT staff.
These individuals worked for a multitude of Democrats in Congress, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz — who was also the former head of the Democratic National Committee.
(Schultz was shamed into resigning after her emails were released by Wikileaks in mid-2016, after they revealed her involvement in the DNC working to prevent Senator Bernie Sanders from getting the Democrat nomination to run for president. There is now a class action lawsuit against the DNC for this.)
They had extensive access to information of many House members, including emails and confidential files stored on the Member’s computer systems. While access to these systems is normally strictly monitored and tracked, Imran Awan was able to force the House IT to circumvent the rules put in place so that his access would not be tracked. Unfortunately this means that there was no oversight of his digital activities, and he would have been able to access data or even copy it, to an extent which is unknown.
Investigators into the matter found that the group copied congressional information off-site, and they may have improperly accessed government information and stolen congressional property. Even though they were banned from accessing the computer systems in the House, Debbie Wasserman Schultz retained Imran Awan as an “adviser”, and even continued to allow him administrator access to all email accounts on the DNC server. Gateway Pundit reports that this of course also includes Democrat Party leaders such as Nancy Pelosi — as evidenced by emails obtained by WikiLeaks.
Update: According to Rep. Steve King, Imran Awan had access to “all the communication of the foreign affairs committee”, indicating that the breach of security the Awans represent may be far more vast than originally thought.
The three brothers were also found to have secretly taken money from a fugitive Iraqi politician (with connections to Hezbollah) in the form of a loan that was never repaid. This loan was to their car dealership with “odd finances” that was run by Abid Aman, even though he was also receiving a full-time salary working for the congressional offices. The car dealership had massive debts and even fraud accusations, and in 2012 Abid filed for personal bankuptcy as the dealership was in his name. Such financial issues are normally major issues in security background checks due to potential for blackmail.
The six were paid at rates far exceeding the average for congressional staffers or IT staff (up to $165,000 per year) even though, according to The Daily Caller, they were rarely or never seen.
“Since 2003, the family has collected $5 million overall, with Imran making $2 million and Abid making $1.5 million, according to Legistorm.com, which tracks congressional staff data.” -The Daily Caller
The families have since removed their children from schools, and moved from their homes, where they have resided for some time. They have put their homes up for sale, and Hina Alvi fled to Pakistan in March. She was confronted at the airport and found to have over $12,000 hidden in her suitcase, but was still allowed to leave the country with her daughters.
Congress members involved with this case have not been forthcoming with information, and have attempted to downplay any involvement or potential ramifications arising from the potential crimes under investigation. Many of them did not fire the suspects immediately after it was found they were being investigated, or even after it was made impossible for them to perform IT work after being banned from the House network. Other high-ranking Democrats in Congress have likewise provided little to no information when questioned on the subject.
There has been little uproar from the involved members of Congress over their having potentially been hacked, though this is at odds with much of the recent unproven speculation about hacking of email belonging to the DNC. FBI investigators working this case have discovered smashed hard drives in Awan’s home, which they are attempting to recover information from. This is not the first case where electronic data relating to the DNC or its members was attempted to be destroyed through physical destruction of devices.
Tuesday, Imran Awan was arrested by the FBI at Dulles International Airport where he had boarded an international flight to Pakistan after wiring $283,000 to a bank there from the Congressional Federal Credit Union. He was charged with one count of bank fraud, and pled not guilty at his arraignment. He and his wife are accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 second mortgage for a rental property, claiming that it is their primary residence. They also reported no income on their rental properties, and attempted to have their tenants pay them in “untraceable ways”.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz refused to fire Imran until Tuesday, at which point he was reported to no longer be employed by her office. She had also previously attempted to interfere with the investigation by threatening the police chief for gathering evidence, and has admitted to violating security policies but blames others for “not stopping her”.
Her offices can be reached at 202-225-7931 for further information.
Other Congress members that the IT staffers worked for (or received salary from) include:
- Texas: Joaquin Castro 202–225–3236 (serves on the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence panels)
- Lousiana: Cedric Richmond 202-225-6636 (Committee on Homeland Security)
- Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema 202-225-9888
- California: Karen Bass 202-225-7084, Jim Costa 202-225-3341, Tony Cardenas 202-225-6131, Mark Takano 202-225-2305, Julia Brownley 202-225-5811, Pete Aguilar 202-225-3201, Ted Lieu 202-225-3976, and Jackie Speier 202-225-3531
- Colorado: Diana DeGette 202-225-4431
- Florida: Frederica Wilson 202-225-4506, Ted Deutch 202-225-3001, and Lois Frankel 202-225-9890
- Illinois: Tammy Duckworth 202-224-2854 and Robin Kelly 202-225-0773
- Indiana: Andre Carson 202-225-4011
- Iowa: Dave Loebsack 202-225-6576
- Massachusetts: Katherine Clark 202-225-2836
- Maryland: John Sarbanes 202-225-4016
- Michigan: Sander Levin 888-810-3880 and Dan Kildee 202-225-3611
- Missouri: Emanuel Cleaver 202-225-4535
- New Mexico: Michelle Lujan Grisham 202-225-6316
- New York: Yvette Clarke 202-225-6231, Hakeem Jeffries 202-225-5936, and Gregory Meeks 202-225-3461
- Ohio: Marcia Fudge 202-225-7032, Tim Ryan 202-225-5261, and Joyce Beatty 202-225-4324