by WorldTribune Staff, July 24, 2017
An information technology (IT) administrator, who had access to the emails and files of more than a dozen House Democrats, has tried to get back smashed hard drives that were seized by the FBI, a report said.
Pakistani-born Imran Awan, long-time IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has “desperately tried to get the hard drives back,” an individual whom FBI investigators interviewed in the case told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.
A military family is now the renting the home that Awan hastily abandoned in February.
The FBI has joined what Politico previously reported as a Capitol Police criminal probe into “serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network” by Imran and three of his relatives, a source in Congress with direct knowledge of the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the foundation.
Related: Another Democrat scandal: Major IT shakedown on the Hill filtered out by major media, May 25, 2017
Awan’s younger brothers, Abid and Jamal, his wife, Hina Alvi, and Rao Abbas, Imran’s best friend, are also under investigation. There have been no arrests in the case.
Soon after Imran began working for Wasserman Schultz in 2005, his two brothers and two of their wives – plus Abbas and another friend – began appearing as IT staffers on the payrolls of other House Democrats.
Collectively, the Awan group has been paid $4 million since 2009 despite being often absent from weekly meetings and email exchanges, the report said.
One of the fellow staffers said some of the computers the Awans managed were being used to transfer data to an off-site server, the report said.
Related: Report: Pakistani brothers provided IT services to Wasserman Schultz, dozens of House Democrats, Feb. 22, 2017
Imran moved out of his longtime home in Lorton, Virginia shortly after the criminal probe was revealed in February. He listed it for rent on a website that connects landlords with military families.
One of the new tenants – a Marine Corps veteran married to a female Navy Officer – said he found “wireless routers, hard drives that look like they tried to destroy, laptops, [and] a lot of brand new expensive toner.”
The tenants called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and, not long after, FBI agents arrived together with the Capitol Police to interview them and confiscate the equipment.
The Marine spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns for his wife’s naval career, said “they left in a huge hurry. It looks like government-issued equipment. We turned that stuff over.”
Wasserman Schultz, who resigned as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July 2016 after the committee’s IT system was hacked, has refused to fire Imran despite learning that he is a target of a criminal investigation.
Wasserman Schultz has demanded return of a laptop seized by the Capitol Police because it was purportedly used by Imran and was found hidden in a vacant office. The Florida Democrat used a Capitol Police budget hearing to threaten “consequences” for them if the laptop wasn’t returned.
The Marine said Imran wanted the hard drives back so desperately that he threatened to sue the renter for stealing them.
“It was unbelievable. I don’t know where they get off thinking they’re going to sue us for items we have no obligation to hold onto,” he said.
Imran came to the house for the items “three to four times,” but the Marine wouldn’t let him enter.
“I served in the Marine Corps for 14 years; if I downloaded files to an off-site server, I’m going to prison for a lot of years,” the Marine said.
“There’s no way they could get this far without help” from some of the Democratic members of Congress for whom the brothers worked. Other Democrats have ignored a major security breach because it could look like a “black eye” in that they failed to vet the Pakistanis, he said.
“He’s dangerous. This is a crime syndicate that has successfully infiltrated Congress,” he said.
“If Donald Trump and the Republicans had hired foreign nationals to be their top IT guys and somehow their congressional files had been compromised, this would have been all over the news,” the Marine said.