A top technology aide to Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives was arrested Monday at a Washington airport while attempting to leave the United States for Pakistan.
Imran Awan, an IT aide who worked for the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and several other congressional Democrats, was arrested on fraud charges related to a housing loan he received.
Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, who also worked as a technology aide for Democrats, requested and received a home loan from Congressional Federal Credit Union (CFCU) for $165,000 under the pretense that the couple would occupy the home, according to Awan’s arrest warrant. The couple didn’t occupy the house, but instead rented out the property to tenants, in violation of their loan agreement.
Within a week of accepting the loan money on January 12, 2017, Alvi requested a wire transfer form from the CFCU branch located within the U.S. Capitol in the amount of $283,000 to be sent to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
According to the arrest warrant, a representative from the bank called Alvi on January 18, 2017, to confirm the purpose of the outgoing wire transfer.
“The person answering the call, who was a male, pretended that he was Alvi,” the arrest warrant says.
While on the call, the bank representative asked the purpose of the wire transfer, to which the male pretending to be Alvi responded that it was to be used for “funeral arrangements.” The bank representative informed the man that funeral arrangements wouldn’t necessarily qualify as an acceptable reason for the wire.
“After a long pause, the male said that the reason for the wire was ‘buying property’,” and the representative accepted that reasoning before initiating the wire transfer to Pakistan, the warrant says.
Bank records showed that $165,000.00 of $283,000.00 wired to Pakistan came from the illicit home loan.
A little more than a month after wiring the money to Pakistan, Alvi and her three children boarded a plane to Pakistan and never returned to the U.S.
According to the arrest warrant, the children “were abruptly taken out of school without notifying” their teachers, and investigators do not “believe that Alvi has any intention to return to the United States.”
Awan purchased a ticket for a flight departing from Washington to Pakistan Monday night, but was arrested at the airport by federal agents prior to boarding.
Awan pleaded not guilty to the bank fraud charge Tuesday during an arraignment in federal court in Washington. He was released but was forced to turn over all his passports and wear a GPS monitoring device.
Chris Gowen, Awan’s attorney, told Politico the arrest is “clearly a right-wing media-driven prosecution by a United States Attorney’s Office that wants to prosecute people for working while Muslim.”
“A quick glance at what the government filed in court today confirms the lack of evidence or proof they have against my client,” he said.
In March, a group of House Democrats fired Awan and Alvi after they allegedly stole IT equipment from congressional members and may have exposed House information online. The couple had been barred from accessing House computer networks since early February.
Two of Awan’s relatives, Abid Awan and Jamal Awan also worked as IT aides for Democrats, and are linked to the criminal investigation.
Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign as chairwoman of the DNC last year after emails released by WikiLeaks appeared to show the organization working to unfairly support Hillary Clinton over her former rival Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary process.
Awan and his relatives began working for congressional Democrats more than a decade ago, and records show Awan made nearly $2 million since starting IT work on Capitol Hill in 2004. His wife, Alvi, who started working for Democrats in 2007, earned more than $1.3 million during that time.
The two were considered shared employees, which means they worked for dozens of Democrats at the same time, and no one member paid their entire salaries.