Eighteen months after the House of Representatives began gathering evidence that showed unauthorized logins to congressional servers, falsification of purchase orders and other apparent violations, no criminal charges have been filed tied to the House activities of the Pakistani-born Awan family, raising the question of whether authorities take cybersecurity issues seriously even as politicians lament high-profile hacks.
A hacking probe could take time. Yet colleagues with first-hand knowledge of suspicious activity told The Daily Caller News Foundation they have not even been interviewed. There is also no shortage of lesser charges that could appear to apply, and it is unclear why prosecutors haven’t pursued them. Potential allegations :
- False statements on House personal financial disclosure forms
- Theft of public money through ghost employment and procurement fraud (vouchers indisputably misstate the value of equipment they purchased in ways that made it easier for it to disappear without being noticed by House-wide bookkeepers)
- Tax fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Mortgage fraud
Imran Awan and his wife Hina Alvi face charges only of lying to the government and the Congressional credit union to withdraw hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Democrats have painted as having no bearing on the couple’s congressional work. The funds were transferred to Pakistan to be used in a major real estate development deal that has itself been the subject of fraud accusations.
The couple moved their money overseas and went to Pakistan themselves shortly after investigators told authorities they had accessed House servers without authorization thousands of times and transferred huge amounts of data off the network, according to court records and House briefings.
Their indictment notes that Hina and Imran “listed no rental income on their tax forms” but does not charge them with tax fraud, despite noting they collected rent and asked for checks to be paid in the name of third parties.
The employees filed annual ethics disclosures to the House that contained numerous misstatements as brazen as saying their spouses had no income when, of course, their spouses were also on the House payroll, according to the forms, available on Legistorm.com.
The whole family worked together on Capitol Hill, but Imran’s younger brothers Abid and Jamal have not been charged with any crimes, nor has their friend Rao Abbas, who was also paid as an IT guy for numerous Democratic congressmen, as was Abid’s wife, Ukranian-born Natallia Sova. Without even pretextual charges, the relatives are free to leave the country.
The family members were paid salaries up to $170,000 by House Democrats as IT aides, even though there are indicators that not all may have always been working—Abid was running a car dealership with colleagues who said he rarely went to the Hill and Jamal was a college student—which could violate a rule against “ghost employees.” (Rao Abbas worked at McDonalds until he was fired, after which he rarely left the house, his housemate said.)
Payroll records show additional family members appearing on the payroll after the others hit salary caps dictating that staffers can’t earn more than congressmen. Longstanding employers included Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York and Rep. Wasserman Schultz of Florida.
Imran, Hina and Abid made statements on ethics forms year after year that have not resulted in criminal charges after an 18-month investigation.
Lying on the form is a felony, and even members of Congress have been convicted of it. Former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, were convicted in 2017 and face decades in prison for a scheme that included lying on the forms and the use of a ghost employee: The chief of staff put his sister on the payroll as a no-show worker and set up the direct-deposit bank account so he could withdraw the salary himself.
Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, said the existence of a House ethics disclosure program is nothing but a panacea if there are no consequences for blatantly lying on the forms.
“If public institutions are to function effectively in ways that uphold public trust and protect public interests, people who knowingly make false statements in disclosures or testimony need to be held accountable by internal watchdogs and, where warranted, law enforcement,” he said.
The forms appear to omit income from rental properties and do not disclose an ownership stake in massive real estate developments in Pakistan. Family members formed or were officers of numerous limited liability companies, such as the cryptic “New Dawn 2001,” according to state incorporation documents, but did not list them on the House forms under “reportable [outside] positions.”
The Awans report little financial holdings on the forms even though the family took in more than $4 million in House pay since 2009 and lived modestly in the U.S. Though they owned many houses, they bought them with little money down, which makes it unclear what the Awans have done with their money. The FBI had activity reports hundreds of pages long detailing suspicious financial transactions.
Checking “no” on every box, Abid said on the House ethics forms that he had no liabilities the same year he declared bankruptcy and listed hundreds of thousands of dollars in liabilities in federal court. He also may have committed bankruptcy fraud. While his creditors were stiffed as a result of the bankruptcy, he kept ownership of two houses by claiming he was separated from his spouse and the second home was hers. Years later, they were still together.
Moreover, court documents unearthed by the National Legal and Policy Center indicate Abid was renting out one of the homes — income that was not declared on the ethics forms. A tenant at the property, Frederick Luciano-Robles, declared bankruptcy in 2011 while living in the home. When TheDCNF visited the house this year, it was occupied by a Hispanic family.
Real estate records show Jamal, for his part, purchased a home from Hina, his sister-in-law, for almost no money down through a type of mortgage that realtors said is only available for primary residences. However, he continued to rent out the home to the same tenant that Hina had as if no change in ownership had occurred. The transaction had the effect of putting cash from the mortgage company in Hina’s pocket and is similar to the fraud charges authorities filed against Imran and Alvi.
Additionally, when the Awan brothers’ father died, Jamal stated on the death certificate that his father was divorced, the certificate shows. According to the father’s wife, that was a lie intended to block her from taking ownership of massive assets that the brothers had stashed in the father’s name.
The ethics forms are overseen by the House Ethics Committee. Rep. Ted Deutch, who employed three of the Awan group, is the top Democrat on the panel, and Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York, whose office is more involved with the suspected procurement fraud than any other, is also on the committee. Deutch repeatedly refused to answer questions and has not said whether he ever saw Rao Abbas, the McDonald’s worker who was supposedly his IT aide.
More than $100,000 of IT equipment went missing from Clarke’s office while it employed the Awans as IT aides. The office filed a form saying the equipment had been lost without seeking charges against Abid Awan. It did not fire him until six months later, when the office received a call from House administrators saying they were independently reviewing finances connected to the Awans.
“75 pieces of equipment with a purchase price of $118,416 were recently written off the House inventory for a member because one of the subjects could not produce them,” an investigative briefing said. Abid “stated that the items were never received, shouldn’t have been inventoried, or the staff lost the equipment. However, equipment could not be on inventory or have asset tag unless it had arrived in office and EIN had been signed.” Relatives told TheDCNF that Abid was sending large numbers of electronics equipment to Pakistan.
While she was the subject of the probe into Capitol Hill misconduct, authorities allowed Hina Alvi to leave the country despite searching her bags and finding more cash than is permitted without disclosing it. “US Customs and Border Protection conducted a search of Alvi’s bags and located a total of $12,400.00 in U.S. cash inside. Alvi was permitted to board the flight,” the criminal complaint says.
Wasserman Schultz’s brother, Steven Wasserman, is an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia but is not involved in handling the case. He tweeted in August, “The non-case against Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” linking to an editorial about his sister’s involvement in the Awan affair.
The office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia declined to comment.
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