by WorldTribune Staff, October 5, 2017
Imran Awan, his brothers and their associates were merely doing what they were “ordered to do” by Democratic members of Congress when the IT aides allegedly falsified records on how the members’ office budgets were spent, according to lawyers for Awan.
Awan was arrested in July while trying to board a flight to Pakistan, and then indicted on four counts of bank fraud involving moving money to that country. Imran and his wife Hina Alvi, who was also indicted, face a court date on Oct. 6.
Imran, Abid and Jamal Awan, along with Alvi, and their associates collected more than $5 million in pay from congressional offices, “often drawing chief-of-staff level pay though there is reason to believe many didn’t even show up,” according to The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF), which has been out front on the story.
One of Imran’s lawyers, Aaron Page, who acknowledged the invoicing discrepancy on office equipment last month, told DCNF, “This is just how things have been done for forever. This is what experienced members of Congress expect: to expedite things, they adjust the pricing.”
Luke Rosiak of DCNF’s Investigative Group noted that “If members or senior staff instructed IT aides to misrepresent how budgets were spent, that could potentially explain why officials have not charged the Awans with crimes related to procurement, even a full year after House authorities gathered documentation showing invoices that claimed expensive technological items cost $499 instead of their true price: potentially an open-and-shut violation.”
A senior Republican congressional official told the DCNF last month that “The only reason you’re not seeing charges is because the Democrats who employed him are not cooperating.”
House of Representatives administrators take a periodic inventory of all equipment over $500, “but items listed as less than that amount can more easily go missing,” Rosiak wrote.
Some of the equipment was shipped to the Awans’ homes, and many pieces of equipment could not immediately be produced when investigators asked to see it, the senior congressional official told the DCNF.
According to a Sept. 17 report by The Washington Post, James Bacon, the attorney for Imran Awan’s brother Abid, responded to a question about why orders were falsified to show amounts less than $500 by saying, “In a fluid situation you do what you’re ordered to do.” Any missing equipment, Bacon said, “disappeared after it was brought to the folks who were demanding it. … It sounds to me like there’s a lot of scapegoating here.”
Christopher J. Gowen, one of Imran’s lawyers, told The Washington Post: “There’s nothing that Imran did that wasn’t requested by one of his clients on House staff.”
TheDCNF first revealed the details of the long-running procurement issues Aug. 20, including that Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York did not immediately fire Abid after learning that $120,000 of equipment was missing from her office.
“Her chief of staff instead filed papers to remove the equipment from the inventory, and did not alert authorities or fire Abid until House administrators contacted the office months later to say they would be reviewing that Awans’ actions,” Rosiak wrote.
When the DCNF asked for comment before publication of that story, Gowen replied, “Not one thing you have reported has been even remotely true.” The day after the story ran, Page, one of Imran’s lawyers working alongside Gowen, acknowledged, “I certainly wouldn’t say everything is false,” and blamed House members and their staffs.
“That was Chris being Chris and generalization… This is obviously part of the original thing that police are looking into,” he told the DCNF.
As it relates to the $120,000 write-off, “It had to do with an outgoing chief of staff who – I don’t remember the guy’s name off the top of my head but I think there was potentially some issues there,” Page said, referring to Shelley Davis, Clarke’s outgoing chief of staff, who would have signed off on purchase orders.
“There may be cases on Capitol Hill of other people – certainly not Imran – who are enriching themselves who are taking devices or abusing expense accounts,” Page said. “Potentially, part of that inventory reflects irresponsible practices by other people but none of it was in Imran’s hands.”
The Sept. 17 Washington Post article noted, “As of Sept. 1, 2016, there had been 34 purchases totaling nearly $38,000 ‘where the costs of the item was manipulated to obtain a purchase price of $499.99,’ according to the document. There were $799 iPads and a $640 television on the list, records show. Most of that equipment was left off the official House inventory, investigators found. And investigators found that some of it had been delivered to the homes of the Awan brothers, according to a person familiar with the investigation.”
The senior congressional official told the DCNF that the 34 invoices are only the “tip of the iceberg,” and that not all the offices’ paperwork had been reviewed. The official expressed surprise that the members wouldn’t have wanted to scour their paperwork on their own to help find evidence of wrongdoing by a rogue staffer.