Democrat IT scandal
Despite an interval of at least 18 months, the Awan scandal was made a closed case by investigators with the destruction of evidence on the day the scandal became public - yet it took a year and a half for the public to learn that basic fact.
While the case was reported by Politico at the start of an investigation in February 2017, it was in fact closed that same day. Not until the DNC chairwoman's IT specialist plead guilty to crimes committed after the case was closed a year and half later, did the public learn the extent of Democrat party spying, corruption, and foreign money laundering.
The off-site server for the Democratic House Caucus chaired by Xavier Becerra and maintained by the Awans went "missing" the same day the Awan's were denied access to House computers in February 2017. Chairman Becerra fired Imran Awan six months earlier when suspicions arose, only to replace him with Awan's wife, who was paid by taxpayers. Records show she never did any work. Awan had been employed by Bacerra for more than 10 years.
Imran Awan spent months at a time in Pakistan as the highest paid staffer in the U.S. Congress, accessing Becerra's server which was illegally tapped into about 60 other congressional members offices. None of the dozens of Democrats, who also paid the Awan's, pressed charges. Whether Democrat members knowingly or unknowingly participated in the transfer of their private Congressional office data and records to Pakistan remains a mystery.
In an unprecedented plea agreement with the United States Department of Justice, Imran Awan was exonerated of all "non-violent" federal crimes he may have committed prior to the plea agreement in exchange for a guilty plea to one charge of bank fraud. According to some experts, the deal may not be legal.
- 1 Initial allegations
- 2 Law enforcement in the Legislative Branch
- 3 Circumventing the House Information Resources office
- 4 The Awans' Democrat member-clients
- 5 Local police respond to family residence
- 6 Awans financial dealings
- 7 Imran Awan
- 8 Plea Agreement
- 9 See also
- 10 References
On February 2, 2017, Politico reported 5 House IT staffers, including 3 brothers later identified as Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan, and two of their wives, Hina Alvi and Natalia Sova, were relieved of access to House computers and had been under criminal investigation since late 2016. A sixth, Rao Abbas, privileges were also revoked.
While full details were not disclosed, subsequently it was learned they managed office information technology for at least 80 Democratic members of the House, including members of the House Intelligence, Homeland Security, and Foreign Affairs committees handling matters of national security. It was also learned later Imran Awan worked for ex-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had access to her iPad and password, took $100,000 in cash from an Iraqi doctor who was part of the new Iraq government, and was a suspect in the leaking of DNC emails to Wikileaks (despite verbose allegations of "Russian hacking," the DNC never allowed the FBI to examine its servers to determine if indeed the DNC had been hacked, or if the leaks come from an inside source).
The suspects may have been involved in a leak of information that lead to the ambush and death of Navy SEAL William Ryan Owen.
Law enforcement in the Legislative Branch
From the moment the Capitol Police found probable cause of lawbreaking, the Awan investigation presented many peculiar and difficult problems. The Capitol Police on their own are not equipped to conduct an international counter-intelligence investigation. And yet the case occurred at a time of serious misuse of the nation's foreign intelligence gathering capabilities by the Executive Branch and civil rights violations by the Obama administration, as well as primary vote rigging by the Democratic National Committee, collusion between the Clinton campaign, the FBI, and foreign actors to meddle in US elections democracy.
During several years of employment of the Awans, the wives have only been seen at work a few times, one drawing $1 million in pay in recent years. The wife of Imran Awan, herself a suspect in the investigation, reportedly has fled to Pakistan with her children permanently "where her family has significant assets and VIP-level protection.
The lead agency conducting the Awan investigation is the United States Capitol Police, which is a law enforcement bureau within the Legislative Branch of the United States. It should not be confused with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the local District of Columbia Police. The Capitol Police is the lone law enforcement bureau directly under the control of the United States Congress. As such, information-sharing arrangements between the Capitol Police and the Intelligence Community of the Executive Branch are somewhat different.
Several congressional staffers have suggested their bosses are being blackmailed, hence Members' reluctance to talk about the breaches and the appearance of a cover-up.
Likewise, the District of Columbia is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress which created a single municipal government for the District and retains veto power over local law. The District of Columbia Police are indirectly under the Congress through the local municipal government.
At some point Executive Branch law enforcement agencies were called in, as evidenced by Imran Awan's arrest on money laundering charges by the FBI at Dulles Airport in June 2017. However, so far as is known, the Capitol Police remain the lead investigative agency.
Circumventing the House Information Resources office
The House Information Resources (HIR) office manages the computer system for all House members and grants permissions to IT staff workers. To be granted top level administrator privileges over a member's office account, Imran constantly complained about going through a process that required a form to be filled out and a paper trail when he took on a new Member-client. He bullied HIR workers to process his access requests without the proper forms.
Once permissions are granted to access the member's office system, there is no internal House oversight or tracking of what they may be doing on the member's system.
Imran Awan obtained complete unsupervised access to dozens of Democratic members' congressional IT accounts. Information then was surreptitiously replicated and transferred to an outside server.
Rep. Louie Gohmert said on the House floor:
I am told by other IT professionals that do work here that, if you know what you are doing and you have access to even one Congress Member's computer, which means their calendar, their emails, and notes taken and stored on the computer about meetings, then it is very easy--you are good--to access virtually anybody else's information here in Congress.
I was told some time back by one of my friends in Intelligence that at one time there was concern about positions I had taken like in support of Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood and that there were those who were monitoring people that came to my office. I was told that they know everybody that walks into your office.
The Awans' relations with other House IT specialists
The Awans never attended weekly meetings of IT network staff workers and contractors, nor participated in an email discussion list they used to share and help resolve common problems. Other IT workers thought it was odd, considering the number of Member-clients they held.
Staff workers inside Member offices as well encountered problems; Imran Awan was unconcerned about worker and office problems, and generally dealt with the Member exclusively. In one such case, Imran is said to have gotten a staff member fired when they complained about the service the office was receiving.
One staffer said tech workers who took over some of the offices after the Awans were relieved found that computers in some 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.
IT aides say that members 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 the Awans had full access.
A manager at a tech-services company that works with Democratic House offices said he approached congressional offices, offering their services at one-fourth the price of Awan and his Pakistani brothers, but the members declined.
Another Democratic IT contractor said members “are saying don’t say anything, this will all blow over if we all don’t say anything.” The Awans “had [members] in their pocket,” and “there are a lot of members who could go down over this.”
The Awans' Democrat member-clients
An Awan family member - three of which are commonly referred to as 'no show employees' - appeared at one time or another on an estimated 80 House Democrats’ payrolls. Imran worked for dozens of House Democrats as a 'shared employee' providing technical support.
On March 1, 2017, Daily Caller reported members of the Awan family were paid $5 million by Democratic congressmen over several years, many of whom serve on the Intelligence, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees.
Wasserman Shultz would encourage newly elected members to hire Imran or put his relatives on the payroll with the understanding that Imran was the one who would actually do the work –something not be permitted under House rules.
Current members who paid the Awan's are Marcia Fudge, Tim Ryan, Jim Costa, Sander M. Levin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Yvette Clarke, Gregory Meeks, John Sarbanes, Jackie Speier, Diana DeGette, Frederica Wilson, Cedric L. Richmond, David Loebsack, Karen Bass, Joyce Beatty, Emanuel Cleaver, Lois Frankel, Daniel Kildee, Tony Cardenas, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Robin Kelly, Katherine Clark, Mark Takano, Julia Brownley, Pete Aguilar, Andre Carson, Joaquin Castro, Ted Deutch, Ted Lieu, Hakeem Jeffries, Kyrsten Sinema and Tammy Duckworth. The Awans had full access to the emails and office computer files of members. Focus of the investigation by the US Capitol Police is an off-site server on which congressional data was loaded.
There are more than 15,000 congressional staff on Capitol Hill; four of the 500 highest-paid House staffers are Awans. Median salary for legislative assistants is $43,000 annually; Imran Awan has collected $1.2 million in salary since 2010, and his brother Abid and wife Hina Alvi were each paid more than $1 million. Imran first came to Capitol Hill in 2004 and Abid joined him in 2005. Imran's wife Hina Alvi was added to the payroll in 2007, while Abid's wife, Natalia Sova, appeared in 2011. In 2014 the youngest brother, Jamal, was added to the payroll in 2014 at the age of 20 with a salary of $160,000, roughly three times the average staff salary.
Politico reported Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Gregory Meeks declined to fire Imran, and that both members have a “friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources.”
On May 18, 2017, former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz threatened Capitol police chief for impounding evidence in the Awan investigation (See 2 February 2017). The Awan brothers were IT specialists working for Wasserman Schultz with access to DNC data and for House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee.
Local police respond to family residence
From 16 October 2016 until 2 February 2017 Samani Galani, stepmother of Imran, Abid, and Jamal Awan, married to their father Muhammad Shah, was held in captivity in a suburban home in Fairfax County, VA, outside Washington DC. Her husband Muhammad Shah lay dying of cancer in a hospital. The brothers would not allow her to visit or speak with her husband by phone. On 5 January 2017 she obtained a phone and called local police. According to the police report,
- “Samani Galani called [police] after her stepchildren were denying her access to her husband of 8 years, Muhammad Shah, who is currently hospitalized...I made contact with her stepson, Abid, who responded to location and was obviously upset with the situation. He stated he has full power of attorney over his father and produced an unsigned, undated document as proof. He refused to disclose his father’s location.”
After she contacted police, Abid threatened her and told her they were going to kidnap her family back in Pakistan. Mohammad Shah died a few days later. Imran demanded that Salmani Galani give him power of attorney for his father's assets in Pakistan and instructed Jamal to take her to the Pakistani embassy in Washington. Imran sent a couple of people to pressure her.
Galani learned from a life insurance executive that “a few days before the Mohammad Shah's death, the beneficiary was changed to Abid and the house where she lived would go to Abid."
Galani fled from the brothers and filed a second police complaint with Fairfax County over insurance fraud and other abuses.
On April 17, 2017, documents filed in Fairfax County, Va., allege Imran Awan threatened to have his stepmother's Pakistani relatives kidnapped if she talked to US law enforcement authorities.
- “Imran Awan threatened that he is very powerful and if I ever call the police again, [he] will … kidnap my family members back in Pakistan,” Awan’s stepmother, Samina Gilani, claimed in the case of Americo Financial Life and Annuity Insurance Company v. Abid A. Awan and Samina Ashraf Gilani.
Awans financial dealings
- See also: Project Cassandra
Security-sensitive jobs typically require background checks for credit and legal problems that can create pressures to cash in on access to secret information and documents.
From November 2009 to September 2010 the Awan brothers operated a Falls Church, Virginia car dealership with Abid as its day-to-day manager. It was called Cars International A, LLC, referred to as “CIA” in court documents. It's unclear how Abid found time to run an automotive business while working full-time for Congress. He had been on the congressional payroll since 2005. A congressional credit union repossessed two of his personal cars.
Imran is also real estate agent, and another realtor who invested $400,000 of his own money in the dealership obtained Al-Attar's cash and passed it through bank accounts used for real estate transactions in Fairfax County, Va.
After Rao Abbas, who was owed money by the dealership, threatened to sue amid allegations of deception and theft, Abbas appeared on the congressional payroll and has been paid $250,000. Abbas’ congressional email was cut off in early February, around the time the Capitol Police revealed that they had uncovered a scheme involving a network of IT aides. According to Politico, Abbas is also under criminal investigation.
Abid declared more than $1 million in debts when he filed for bankruptcy in 2012, but managed to keep ownership of two houses. He signed a sworn statement that he and his wife were living apart and needed separate residences.
- “My spouse and I are legally separated under applicable non-bankruptcy law or my spouse and I are living apart other than for the purpose of evading the requirements of § 707(b)(2)(A) of the Bankruptcy Code,” Abid claimed in bankruptcy documents. Abid also had an unpaid line of credit of $10,000 with the congressional credit union at the time of bankruptcy.
Abid's record includes numerous driving- and alcohol-related legal problems, including driving with a suspended or revoked license, court records show. He was found guilty of drunk driving a month before he started at the House and was arrested for public intoxication a month after his first day.
Imran Awan was first employed on Capitol Hill by former Rep. Robert Wexler in January 2004 as an “information technology director.” Imran's clients included previous House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, currently the California attorney general.
Imran has worked for Wasserman Schultz since 2005. Wasserman Schultz became DNC chair in 2011.
Imran Awan was arrested in July 2017 after 5 members of the Awan family employed by Democratic members of Congress had their access to the House computer system revoked in February. The rest fled to Pakistan. While most Democratic Members of Congress terminated their relationship with the Awans and have refused to talk about it since the scandal became public, former DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz kept Imran Awan on her congressional staff payroll, changing his job description from IT Specialist to Advisor. Similarly, Reps. Gregory Meeks and Marcia Fudge have retained a close relationship with the Awans. Imran Awan was fired only after his arrest. In another twist of fate Wasserman Schultz's brother just coincidentally happens to be an Asst. US Attorney for the District of Columbia who luck of the draw would have it would be assigned the case.
Imran Awan was married to two Virginia women simultaneously, and 15 days after one of them told police that Imran kept her “like a slave,” gunmen shot into her family home, according to police reports filed in Pakistan.
The shooting at Sumaira Siddique allegedly occurred in Pakistan in August 2016 — days after the House Inspector General informed the Committee on House Administration that Imran allegedly committed cybersecurity violations.
On July 25, 2017, officers and agents from the U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI and Customs and Border Protection, were involved in the arrest of Imran Awan at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., as he tried to fly away to Pakistan. Awan was arrested after wiring $283,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union to Pakistan. He had $12,000 in cash on him. Politico reported that Awan is “at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of lawmakers.”
Awan is accused of attempting 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 since it is not an owner-occupied property. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Wasserman Schultz did not fire Imran Awan til after his arrest.
Imran Awan pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a loan application. Awan is free on bail pending final sentencing and will not be required to wear an electronic tracking device but will have to remain within a 150 miles of his residence. U.S. prosecutors will recommend probation; sentencing is scheduled for August 21, 2018.
The plea agreement specifically addressed some of the outlandish made by public entities.
More specifically, the Government agrees that the public allegations that your client stole U.S. House of Representatives ("House") equipment and engaged in unauthorized or illegal conduct involving House computer systems do not form the basis of any conduct relevant to the determination of the sentence in this case. The Government conducted a thorough investigation of those allegations, including interviewing approximately 40 witnesses; taking custody of the House Democratic Caucus server, along with other computers, hard drives, and electronic devices; examining those devices, including inspecting their physical condition and analyzing log-in and usage data; reviewing electronic communications between pertinent House employees; consulting with the House Office of General Counsel and House information technology personnel to access and/or collect evidence; and questioning your client during numerous voluntary interviews. The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems. Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classifed or sensitive information. 
Awan was sentenced on August 21, 2018, to three months of supervised release along with time served after pleading guilty to lying on a bank loan application.
- Congressional Record, March 10, 2017. "Politico reported that Imran and his wife, Hina Alvi, are personal friends with the former DNC chair, Ms. Wasserman Schultz, when she was subject to an email hack that was blamed on the Russians.
This article is dated March 8. Apparently, Imran still hasn't been fired, even though he was banned from the House network, but that has been circumvented by having him serving as an adviser."