By Jamie Dupree of PBP.
Former U.S. House IT aide Imran Awan pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that he and his wife lied on an application for a home equity loan, as prosecutors dropped hints about a broader probe of Awan and his family members related to their computer work in recent years for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and a series of other Democratic lawmakers in the Congress.
A federal judge also agreed to return $9,000 seized from Awan when he was arrested at Dulles Airport in late July, as the feds and Awan’s legal team agreed to ensure that the money is used only to pay for the cost of Awan’s legal defense.
While the existing case against Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, is related to whether they did not tell the truth on a loan application to a Capitol Hill credit union – documents in the matter again suggested at a larger investigation, possibly relating to more than just matters of bank fraud.
In a letter about evidence in the case, U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips described the probe as one that involved, “voluminous discovery,” citing items that were found in a Congressional office building back in April, which seemingly may have belonged to Awan.
This "laptop bag" found in April could well be the piece of equipment that had drawn the interest of Rep. Wasserman Schultz earlier this year, when she verbally berated the Capitol Hill Police chief at a House budget hearing, demanding that an item be returned to her office.
“I think you’re violating the rules when you conduct your business that way,” Wasserman Schultz said bluntly, as she told the chief that he should “expect that there will be consequences.”
The chief said he was not returning the piece of equipment that officers had found, because it was part of an investigation, which he did not detail.
From prosecutors, this evidence letter was the first official confirmation that there were items found on Capitol Hill which had a direct link to Imran Awan.
Still unclear is what exactly that earlier investigation has uncovered.
In a hearing before Federal Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, the judge refused to allow a citizen investigator from Indiana to join the case; he claimed he could provide evidence to the feds that shows a broader misuse of government resources by Awan and his family during their Capitol Hill employment.
Awan, his wife, and several of their relatives were barred from the Congressional IT system in February, as Democratic lawmakers quickly fired them from part-time IT jobs – but Capitol Police and investigators have still not formally said what problem led to that decision.
Unlike other Democrats who had employed the family members, Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, were kept on the payroll by Rep. Wasserman Schultz – Alvi until she returned to Pakistan with their children in early March, while Awan was paid until he was arrested and charged with bank fraud.
Newly released payroll figures from the U.S. House of Representatives show that Awan was paid $5,000.01 as a “shared employee” in the second quarter of 2017 by Wasserman Schultz.
That was more than the $1,494.45 that Wasserman Schultz had paid Awan in the first quarter of this year.
At today’s hearing, Awan’s lawyers asked that he be allowed to venture up to 100 miles from home, as he evidently is now driving for Uber, as a way to make money.
The judge asked for written arguments to be filed on that request. The next hearing for Awan is set for October 6.