Wasserman Schultz aide arrested trying to leave the country

Wasserman Schultz aide arrested trying to leave the country

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Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially affecting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on a bank fraud charge and is prevented from leaving the country while the charge is pending.

A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Awan was still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as of Tuesday morning. But David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, later said that Awan was fired on Tuesday.

Awan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Awan is accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Awan was arrested Monday evening at Dulles International Airport in Virginia before boarding a flight to Lahore, Pakistan. His wife, Hina Alvi, had earlier left the country for Pakistan, along with their children. Federal agents do not believe Alvi has any intention of returning to the U.S., according to a court document.

Awan was released Tuesday on a “high-intensity supervision program,” according to a DOJ spokesman. He must wear a GPS monitor, abide by a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and cannot leave a 50-mile radius of his Lorton, Virginia, home. He was also forced to surrender his passports and is scheduled to reappear in court for a preliminary hearing Aug. 21.

“This is clearly a right-wing media-driven prosecution by a United States Attorney’s Office that wants to prosecute people for working while Muslim,” Chris Gowen, Awan’s attorney, said in an email declaring his client’s innocence.

“A quick glance at what the government filed in court today confirms the lack of evidence or proof they have against my client.”

Awan, a longtime IT staffer who worked for more than two dozen House Democrats, has been at the center of a criminal investigation on Capitol Hill for months related to procurement theft. Several of his family members, also IT staffers at the time, were implicated in the ongoing investigation.

Most Democratic lawmakers cut ties with Awan and his family after the criminal investigation came to light in early February. But Awan continued to be employed by Wasserman Schultz, although it’s unclear what his job duties were, given he had been barred from accessing the House IT system for months.

Alvi, another House staff member involved in the Capitol Hill investigation, left the country with their three daughters, headed for Pakistan, in March, according to an affidavit filed in the Awan case. Alvi had “numerous pieces of luggage” and more than $12,000 in cash, FBI agent Brandon Merriman wrote in the affidavit.

source: politico

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