Attorney Christopher Gowen, who represents Imran Awan -- a Pakistani former IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), said that federal charges against his client are but a “placeholder” intended to secure Awan’s arrest. Imran has been under investigation by federal authorities and U.S. Capitol Police over bank fraud and a Congressional computer services scandal. He was arrested at Dulles International Airport as he sought to leave the country on Monday. His wife, who is also being investigated, has already left the US in the company of the couple’s children.

On Tuesday, Awan, 37, pleaded not guilty to a single count of bank fraud, which involves loan applications filings he and his wife made that are not related to the computer services he and his wife and relatives provided to 31 Democrats in the House of Representatives. However, Gowen speculated that the bank fraud charge “could be a placeholder” that will be either supplemented or supplanted by additional bank fraud-related charges. Gowen claimed that the federal investigation into Awan’s activities has “turned up nothing on procurement.”

For months, law enforcement have been looking into how Awan may have double-billed the House for equipment such as computers, iPads, monitors, keyboards, and routers. New attention has been focused on Wasserman Schultz, who kept Awan on staff for months and just after his arrest even after Awan’s relatives who worked for House Democrats were fired.

After Awan was arrested, Wasserman Schultz announced his dismissal. "Mr. Awan previously served as a part-time employee but his services have been terminated. No charges, evidence or findings from the investigation have been formally shared with our office, so we cannot comment on them,” spokesman David Damron said Tuesday in a statement. Awan earned more than $100,000 for his “part-time” work. 

According to the criminal complaint and affidavit filed in court, Awan had bought a ticket to fly Monday to Pakistan and a return flight planned for January. Gowen claimed that Awan bought the ticket earlier this month after the federal government supposedly placed no restrictions on him to travel abroad. As did some Democrats, Gowen’s law firm believe bigotry is involved in his arrest. “The attacks on Mr. Awan and his family began as part of a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry in the literal heart of our democracy, the House of Representatives,” the statement said. “… Now we have the Justice Department showing up with a complaint about disclosures on a modest real estate matter. To an extent, the situation speaks for itself.” According to the statement, Awan sought to see family members and was not trying to “flee” the country. “[W]e are confident that Mr. Awan will soon be able to clear his name,” the statement said.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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