Update: IT staffer for Wasserman Schultz arrested; staff for Deutch, Frankel, other Dems probed

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, in 2015.

A congressional information technology staffer who has worked for U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and several other Democrats was arrested on a bank fraud charge this week after months of investigation into a group of staffers connected to the House’s computer and email systems.

Other IT staffers targeted in the investigation have worked for U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and former Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. The other staffers have not been charged with wrongdoing, but had their access to the House computer system revoked in February, leading most of their employers to terminate them.

Imran Awan was arrested Monday night at Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia as he attempted to travel to Pakistan. He entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday, according to Politico. An affidavit by an FBI agent accuses Awan of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan and representing that it was for a primary residence rather than a rental property.

The $165,000 loan was used as part of a wire transfer of $283,000 to Pakistan, the affidavit says.

A law firm representing Awan issued a statement today blaming his arrest on “a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry” and saying he looks forward to clearing his name.

Awan was paid about $160,000 a year, with 13 different Democratic members paying a portion of his salary during the last quarter of 2016, according to House records.

Deutch’s office said it was among those paying Awan between 2012 and 2014 for stints that totaled about 10 months.

Reports in The Daily Caller and other publications have linked Awan, his wife Hina Alvi, his brothers Abid Awan and Jamal Awan and a staffer named Rao Abbas to an investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police that began earlier this year. None of the others has been charged with any offense.

Frankel was among the Democratic members paying a portion of Abid Awan’s salary. He received $20,000 from her in 2016 and $1,833 from Frankel’s office between Jan. 1 and Feb. 3, when he was denied access to the House system and terminated by Frankel and others.

“We were one of 20+ Member offices that were using the services of Abid Awan to provide technical support for our computing technology,” Frankel spokeswoman Rachel Huxley-Cohen said. “When we were contacted about the investigation, our office immediately terminated the service. We have not since been informed of the details of the ongoing probe.”

Abbas worked until February for Deutch and three other Democratic House members, including Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. Abbas also worked for former Rep. Murphy, who left office after losing a 2016 Senate bid.

Deutch declined comment on the IT staffers.

“There’s an ongoing investigation…that will be fully pursued, as it should,” Deutch told The Palm Beach Post.

The Daily Caller reported this week that the FBI had “seized smashed computer hard drives” from a home that Imran Awan owns and has been renting to tenants.

Alvi, Imran Awan’s wife, left the country for Pakistan in March, according to the FBI affidavit, which says she was accompanied by her three children after “abruptly” removing them from public schools in Northern Virginia. Imran Awan had bought a ticket to Pakistan and was preparing to board a flight to Qatar when he was arrested Monday.

While most House members dropped Imran Awan and the others from their payrolls, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Imran Awan at least through the end of March. He received $1,495 from her office for the quarter.

“Mr. Awan previously served as an employee in our office, but his services have been terminated,” Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron said late Tuesday.



Author: George Bennett

George Bennett has been a Palm Beach Post reporter since 1992. He grew up in Bethesda, Md. and is a graduate of The George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @gbennettpost

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s