The White House called Thursday for a thorough investigation related to the arrest of an IT staffer for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who remained on the job and with congressional computer access for about five months after FBI began investigating him for fraud.
“I do think it is something we should fully look into and there should be a thorough investigation,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Mrs. Wasserman Schultz, former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, fired the staffer, Pakistan-born Imran Awan, after he was arrested Monday at Dulles Airport outside Washington trying to flee the country.
The Florida congresswoman also told investigators there would be “consequences” if Mr Awan’s laptop seized by police was not promptly returned to her office.
Mr. Awan, 37, pleaded not guilty to a charge of bank fraud and was released on strict conditions that he wear a GPS monitoring device and not travel more than 50 miles from his home in Lorton, Virginia.
Mr. Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, denied that his client was attempting to flee the country. He said Mr. Awan was cleared to travel and had informed the House of his plans to visit his family before the scheduled trip.
An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint states there is probable cause to believe that Mr. Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, engaged in a scheme to defraud Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations made to obtain a loan. FBI Special Agent Brandon Merriman said in the affidavit that the misrepresentations revolved around written assurances that the home serving as collateral for the loan was a “principal residence.”
Mr. Merriman said that the credit union normally does not provide home equity lines of credit when the home used to secure the loan is a rental. That’s because they are riskier forms of collateral.
The investigation, which included physical surveillance and interviews, determined that the couple did not reside at the property used to secure the loan.
The agent also attested that bank records show $283,000 was wired to two individuals in Pakistan. He stated that agents followed Ms. Alvi in March to Dulles International Airport and that she was allowed to board a flight. She has not returned. She has a return flight for September 2017, but the agent said that he believes Ms. Alvi has no intention of returning to the United States.
The FBI agent also stated Mr. Awan purchased a flight to Doha, Qatar, and then to Lahore, Pakistan. He purchased a return flight for a date in January 2018.
Mr. Gowen says the federal bank fraud count stems from a “modest real estate matter” and is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. He said he’s confident Mr. Awan “will soon be able to clear his name and get on with his life.”
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21, according to Mr. Gowen.
• S.A. Miller can be reached at email@example.com.
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