On April 6, at midnight, in a small room once used as a phone booth on the second floor of the Rayburn House Office Building, a Capitol Hill Police Officer doing his security rounds discovered evidence that will possibly reveal one of the the biggest security breaches involving House Democrats by the Awan family, a group of entrusted IT staffers, according to court records, police reports and news reports.
In the small room, the U.S. Capitol Police found a laptop computer registered to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a Florida Democrat and former DNC chairwoman. Wasserman-Schultz had been fighting authorities for months to return the laptop, that she once claimed was not hers.
What's more concerning, say senior House officials who spoke to Circa, is that Imran Awan was also allegedly transferring files - including documents and emails - of House Democrats to a secret server connected to the less secure House Democratic Caucus. The organization was then chaired by Rep. Xavier Becerra, who left Congress in January after being sworn in as the Attorney General of California.
The Daily Caller's Luke Rosiak was the first to break the story and last week Rosiak reported Wasserman Schultz's IT staffer, now indicted Awan, is believed to have planted her laptop in the Rayburn office room, along with his Pakistani ID card, copies of his driver’s license and his congressional ID badge. Awan also left behind letters to the U.S. attorney.
Awan apparently wanted the evidence discovered, according to a Capitol Hill police report on the matter.
Officials are now asking the question of why the computer was left but the answers remain elusive.
"There is no reason to accommodate all the members data on one server and one that was apparently hidden," said the Senior House official. "Why didn't Xavier Becerra know this because it happened on his watch? Each member had their own server to protect against this and Awan intentionally tried to hide what he had done from investigators."
Becerra's office did not return phone calls for comment.
The House official told Circa that Awan was also allegedly uploading "terabits of information to dropbox so he was possibly able to access the information even after he was banned from the network." The official said there is a need for a full congressional investigation on the matter.
"I think this may lead to information as to who really accessed the DNC server - everybody talks about Russia - but look at the access (Awan) had and potentially those emails could have been sold," the House official added.
Police informed Becerra that the server was the subject of an investigation and requested a copy of it. Authorities considered the false image they received to be interference in a criminal investigation, the senior official said.
Capitol Hill Police said they cannot comment on ongoing investigations, but what we do know from the their police report is that on Feb. 2, 2017, Awan, and those who worked with him, were banned from the congressional computer network because they had become suspects in the cyber-security breach investigation. The report also says Awan's IT group was made up of family members, including his wife Hina Alvi. They had access to Democratic members of the House Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
But instead of being fired or suspended, Awan continued to be employed by Wasserman-Schultz as a consultant.
Although Awan and his IT staff had access to email and documents sent by the House members they would not have been able to access the classified information stored on a "completely different system" within the House Intelligence Committee, said another current House staffer.
"Unless members were typing classified information into their emails it would be highly unlikely for these IT staffers to get a hold of the classified information," the House staffer said. "But if they did illegally transfer members emails and documents that it is a huge concern."
Several intelligence specialists and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the breach told Circa, the lack of reaction to such serious charges raises more questions.
"This could potentially be one of the largest security breaches involving members of Congress," said a former U.S. official, who is familiar with the investigation. The official spoke on background as they were not authorized to speak on the record.
"It has all the hallmarks of blackmail, spy craft - it's hard to believe that this is plain old bank fraud," the former U.S. official said. "There is enormous concerns that they accessed information that could potentially put congressional members at threat of being blackmailed."
Another concern, said the former U.S. official is the amount of money Awan and his family made on Capitol Hill. According to court records and financial statements, Awan and his family made more than $4 million since beginning their work on Capitol Hill in 2009 working for dozens of House Democrats and more than $5 million to date going back to 2003, according to Legistorm.com. According to the Daily Caller in 2014, Jamal, who was 20 at the time, was paid a salary of $160,000 yearly.
Alvi flees to Pakistan and Awan is arrested
Awan's wife, Alvi, along with his two brothers Avid and Jamal, and his brother Avid's wife Natalia Sova, were also part of his IT network and had access to House servers and the various members who worked for them, according to reports.
By March, Awan's wife Alvi was dismissed from her position working as a tech staffer for Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and Awan was fired from working as an IT expert for Rep. Marcia Fudge, an Ohio Democrat. Still, that was more than a month after the pair and their assistants were banned from accessing the House servers.
On March 5, 2017, Alvi fled to Pakistan with the couple's three children "who were abruptly taken out of school without notifying the Fairfax County Public School System," according to the complaint. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents found during a baggage search $12,400 in cash, along with various household goods, the complaint states. Even though she was under investigation, “Alvi was permitted to board the flight to Qatar and she and her daughters have not returned to the United States.”
She is now under indictment for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, providing false statements on loan and credit applications and engaging in unlawful money transactions, according to court documents. Alvi, recently made a deal with federal officials to return to the United States and appear at an arraignment, the court documents show.
Congressman Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, believes Alvi may have cut an immunity deal. He said in a Fox News interview this week that he believes Alvi’s decision to return to the United States from Pakistan may be part of a larger immunity deal with federal authorities.
“I think you’re going to see some revelations that are going to be pretty profound,” said Franks. “The fact that this wife is coming back from Pakistan and willing to face charges, as it were, I think there is a good chance she is going to reach some type of immunity to tell a larger story here that is going to be pretty disturbing to the American people.”
He added, “I would just predict that this is going to be a very significant story and people should fasten their seat belts on this one.”
Just months after allegedly planting the Wasserman-Shultz's laptop and other evidence in the Rayburn office, Imran was on his way to Pakistan.
Awan had purchased his ticket on “Qatar Airlines, Flight 708, departing from Dulles International Airport on July 24, 2017, to Doha, Qatar, at 8:45 pm, and then to Lahore, Pakistan,” the complaint said.
He was arrested at Dulles International Airport on July 24, attempting to board a flight to Pakistan. He had already wired $283,000 to Pakistan, of which $165,000 came from the allegedly fraudulent loan he and his wife took out on one of their properties, according to the court documents.
Awan and his IT team had already been under investigation for months. FBI and Capitol Hill Police were concerned as early as January that the family had violated protocol in the House and committed bank fraud.
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