The federal probe into a group of Pakistani congressional IT staffers expanded to a deeper level Thursday when two members of the group were indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts, including conspiracy and making false statements.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia indicted Imran Awan, 37, along with his wife, Hina Alvi, 33. The pair were charged with the following:
- Conspiracy to commit bank fraud, false statements on a loan or credit application and unlawful monetary transactions.
- Bank fraud.
- Making false statements on a loan or credit application.
- Engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
The criminal charges against the couple are not directly related to their congressional IT work, but involve their individual scheme to obtain home equity lines of credit on rental properties which they misrepresented as being their actual residences, as well as then wiring the money to their personal checking accounts in Pakistan.
They are charged with unlawful transactions involving “commerce in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000, that was derived from bank fraud and false statements on a loan or credit application.”
The indictment outlines how Awan tried to send a $283,000 wire transfer to Pakistan in January. When a wire transfer specialist called and asked to speak to his wife, Alvi, he pretended to be Alvi. He first said the money was for “funeral arrangements,” then later changed his story and said it was for “purchasing property,” the indictment states.
In May, it was reported that Imran Awan’s wife, Hina Alvi, had fled back to Pakistan with her children. Awan tried to follow her, but was caught and arrested at the Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., on Monday night, July 24.
Wasserman Schultz, who hired Imran Awan in 2005, retained him on the payroll, in spite of the fact that he was under investigation, until the day after his arrest at the airport.
Awan and his wife, along with two of his brothers, one sister-in-law, and one other Pakistani had all been on the payroll providing IT services to around 30 Democratic Congress members. Over a period of 13 years, they collected more than $4 million in wages. When the group first came under investigation, in February, most lawmakers fired them, but Wasserman Schultz continued to employ Awan until his arrest.
On Aug. 4, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley sent a letter, demanding to see copies of the immigration files for the six Pakistani suspects.
After the indictment was filed on Thursday, Awan’s legal representative, Christopher Gowen, stated, “We are confused as to why the government elected to prosecute such a minor case when it declines to prosecute hundreds of cases a month far more serious than these charges.”
Gowen blamed conservative media, alleging, “Today’s indictment shows the right-wing media’s severe lack of credibility. Throughout the past two weeks, right-wing media including Fox News reported illegal activity committed by my client in relation to his dedicated service to the United States House of Representatives. Today, it is quite clear that every last one of those reports were utterly false. We look forward to reading the right-wing media’s retractions.”
Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel in an Aug. 3 interview that the reason she continued to employ Awan, who is Muslim, is because she felt he was being targeted because of his religious faith.
“I had grave concerns about his due process rights being violated,” she said in the interview. “When their investigation was reviewed with me, I was presented with no evidence of anything that they were being investigated for. And so that, in me, gave me great concern that his due process rights were being violated. That there were racial and ethnic profiling concerns that I had.”
Wasserman Schultz said it would have been “easier for me just to fire him.” But, she claimed, “[I] did the right thing and I would do it again.”
Wasserman Schultz has stirred up a lot of controversy since the DNC convention for Hillary Clinton last summer. Between the revelation of Sen. Bernie Sanders getting short changed for the Democratic nomination and her recent threats against Capitol Police, DNC staffers have had enough of her behavior.
One staffer told Politico, Wasserman Schultz is viewed “as the Democrats’ disastrous destruction.”
“We wish she would go away and stop being so public by doubling down on negative stories,” Nikki Barnes, a DNC member from Florida told Politico. Barnes also says few others saw the case of Awan as one of racial profiling and suspects Wasserman Schultz of an ulterior motive in retaining the Pakistani. “It doesn’t sound like racial profiling … there must have been something for her,” she said.
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