A Muslim born in Pakistan, Imran Awan, was arrested at Dulles International Airport, outside of Washington DC. on Monday. Awan was once information technology aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida when she chaired the Democratic National Committee. Awan was reportedly arrested while trying to flee the United States on Monday. Federal agents and U.S. Capitol Police arrested him on “multiple counts of bank fraud” stemming from the investigation of leaks and an information technology procurement scandal in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Suspect kept on payroll since probe began

Awan is a suspect in a criminal probe into security breaches within the House. He is alleged to have double-charged the House for IT technology and may have released sensitive information online about House members. Despite being banned by Capitol Hill security, however, Wasserman Schultz kept Awan on her House payroll. Other Members of Congress cut ties to Awan after news of an investigation became public earlier this year. According to Chad Pergram of Fox News, Awan was still on Wasserman Schultz’ payroll when he was arrested. He was hired in 2005. Among the Members of Congress who employed Awan is Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who is the second Muslim elected to the House of Representatives.

His wife, Hina Alvi, has already left country for Pakistan along with their children. According to court documents, Federal agents do not believe Alvi has any intention of returning to the U.S. Alvi had “numerous pieces of luggage” with her, plus over $12,000 in cash, FBI agent Brandon Merriman wrote in an affidavit. Imran Awan and brother Abid and Jamal Awan, as well as Alvi and Natalia Sova, were all on the congressional payroll serving as IT administrators for House Democrats.  A close friend, Rao Abbas, was also on the payroll for IT services. They are accused of stealing equipment from Democratic members’ offices without their knowledge and committing potentially illegal violations on the House IT network, including leaking sensitive information stored within the servers and personal devices of House members. 

Notably, the Awan family and their associates are also alleged to owe money to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization. Awan was abusing the system for his own financial gain, and may have had access to top DNC leadership technology. 

The Awans worked in the offices of 32 Democrats in the House, including the office of Wasserman Schultz and members of the Homeland Security Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Intelligence Committee. The Awans also worked in the office of the House Democratic Caucus. Capitol Police have also seized computer equipment tied to the Florida lawmaker.

After House authorities began suspecting the Awans in February, an investigation was begun during their search for a secret server that was funneling congressional data off-site. When Capitol Police ordered Awan to stay away from House servers, Wasserman Schultz kept Awan on in an “advisory position” that allowed him to work remotely. According to The Daily Caller, a House IT staffer said that the Awans had House members “in their pocket,” while predicting that some House members may “go down over this.”

Just before the investigation commenced, Awan moved abruptly from a rented residence in Virginia. The rental’s new tenant was a Marine who reported finding wireless routers, destroyed hard drives, laptops, new expensive toner were left behind. The Marine said that all of the equipment, including government-issued equipment and recycled cabinets, were turned over to investigators. Awan sought on multiple occasions to recover the electronics from his former rental home but was unsuccessful. On Sunday, the FBI seized hard drives from Awan’s new residence.

The FBI has reportedly joined in a Capitol Police criminal probe into what is described as “serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network” by Awan and his relatives.  

On Tuesday, Awan pled not guilty to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He stands accused of seeking to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Suspect released with GPS monitor

Despite surrendering his passport, Awan was released on Tuesday on a “high-intensity supervision program,” according to the Department of Justice. Awan is required to wear a GPS monitor, abide by a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and may not leave a 50-mile radius of his home in Lorton, Virginia. He is scheduled to reappear in court for a preliminary hearing on August 21.

The Hezbollah connection

Awan and his four relatives, while working for Congress, they controlled an LLC called Cars International A (CIA), according to The Daily Caller. The dealership took a loan from Dr. Ali Al-Attar of $100,000 that was not repaid. Attar is believed to have met with a Hezbollah official in Lebanon and is also accused of provoking the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US while leading Iraqis opposed to dictator Saddam Hussein. 

Hezbollah frequently resorts to used car dealerships for laundering money. For example, in 2011 the federal government filed a civil asset forfeiture action in New York against 30 such car dealerships from Michigan to Florida. Vehicles were moved from the US to West Africa and resold in order to launder terrorists’ money; cash from the sales was mixed with profits from illegal drug distribution and sent back to Lebanon to fund Hezbollah’s terrorism. 

In the US, Attar practiced medicine in Maryland and Virginia and defrauded Medicaid, Medicare, and medical insurance companies by billing for non-existent care. In 2009, the FBI raided his offices. After a 2012 indictment on separate tax fraud charges, Attar fled to Iraq to avoid prison and remains a fugitive. The US has no extradition treaty with Iraq. 
 

 

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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