Abid Awan, a member of a family of highly paid Democratic IT aides, was awarded a $45,000 payout in court after he enlisted a high profile attorney specializing in money laundering cases to defeat his stepmother in a bitter dispute over his father’s life insurance policy.
Awan removed the stepmother, Samina Gilani, as the longstanding beneficiary of the policy and replaced her with himself around the period of his father’s death, according to legal and insurance papers.
The stepmother, Samina Gilani, also claimed in 2017 that Abid’s brother Imran Awan held her in “captivity” and wiretapped and extorted her, weeks after the House Office of Inspector General separately alleged that they made “unauthorized access” to congressmen’s data.
Abid’s attorney James Bacon mocked the elderly, burka-clad widow, who does not drive and speaks only Uurdu. “She’s a wacko lunatic, what are you going to do?” he said just outside the courtroom doors as the judge took a break to deliberate. The Daily Caller News Foundation was present at the court hearing.
Associates and relatives have long accused the family of greed. “For the sake of money they would have done anything,” Gilani’s cousin, Syed Ahmed, told the Daily Mail. “There are possibilities that [Imran] or them might have been selling [House] information,” he added. (Syed Ahmed knew Abid well enough to loan him money, according to bankruptcy documents filed by Abid.)
The FBI arrested Imran, the eldest of the three Awan brothers, at Dulles Airport trying to fly to Pakistan in July, and prosecutors charged him with fraudulently gathering money the prior winter to wire overseas, possibly in an attempt to flee the investigation into the family’s activities involving House computers. “Based on the suspicious timing of that transaction, Awan and [wife Hina] Alvi likely knew they were under investigation at that time” and “there are strong indications of flight in this case,” prosecutors wrote.
Abid was making his own efforts to round up money at the same time via the life insurance policy. On Nov. 16, 2016, the brothers made a video of his bedridden father signing over ownership — but not changing the beneficiary — of his life insurance policy to Abid.
WATCH: The video depicts a seemingly groggy man hooked up to a hospital bed, while the Awans laugh as he signs
Abid then used those rights to replace Gilani with himself as beneficiary. When his father died on Jan. 16, 2017, the youngest Awan brother, Jamal, attested on the death certificate provided to the insurance company that his father was divorced, a statement Gilani’s lawyer said would have kept her from the money. A Virginia court later ruled that Jamal’s statement about his marital status on the certificate was wrong.
“Why is that even relevant?” Bacon said of Jamal’s misstatement at the March 7 court date.
On Dec. 12, 2016, Imran and Alvi – who was also on the House payroll – began taking a series of withdrawals from banks, some of which federal prosecutors say occurred under fraudulent pretenses. In January 2017, Imran wired nearly $300,000 to Pakistan.
Imran wired nearly $300,000 to Pakistan Jan. 18, according to the indictment. On Jan. 17, Abid filed notarized papers using those rights to replace Gilani with himself as beneficiary.
The life insurance change’s timing seems to coincide with other moves by Abid to liquidate property and transfer it. Ten weeks prior, on Nov. 1, 2016, Alvi sold a house to Jamal for $620,000, netting another significant profit from the mortgage company.
In addition to his primary residence, Abid owned the house where his mother and stepfather lived, and moved in after his death, with Gilani becoming homeless. Abid owned two homes despite a $1 million 2012 bankruptcy that might ordinarily have forced him to sell the second home to pay creditors. At that time, he filed forms “under penalty of perjury” that two houses were needed as “my spouse and I are legally separated under applicable non-bankruptcy law or my spouse and I are living apart other than for the purposes of evading the requirements.”
However, his wife, Ukrainian-born Nataliia Sova – who also was on the House payroll – signed as a witness on the 2016 life insurance form as “spouse of Abid,” and they have been photographed living together.
Gilani told TheDCNF the brothers were trying to use the life insurance policy as leverage to persuade her to sign a power of attorney giving them access to “assets of my late husband in Pakistan,” which were much more valuable than the $50,000 policy.
Americo, the life insurance company, said there was “great doubt” about who the rightful policy holder was, given the allegations of fraud, and sent the decision to the courts to sort out on April 14, two months after the House sargent-at-arms banned the Awans for “suspicious activity.”
Gilani alleged the brothers took her financial documents, a laptop, and her husband’s possessions. The only lawyer she could afford, she claimed, was Michael Hadeed, a business attorney who was convicted in 2010 of conspiracy and immigration fraud for helping aliens obtain green cards by setting them up with fake employment relationships. He lost his bar license for two years, according to Virginia State Bar documents.
Hadeed did not introduce any evidence to the judge about a pattern of possible fraud by Abid, the timing of the move as it relates to the federal criminal case, or the mental capacity of the dying man to understand paperwork. Hadeed withdrew earlier allegations of fraud and asked the judge to try the case based solely on interpretation of contract language.
After court, Hadeed told reporters Bacon had threatened to sue him for defamation.
“I don’t want to subject myself to that,” he said outside court. “I don’t want to get myself in a lawsuit over this.”
In court, Bacon badgered Hadeed. “Are you going to share any more info with them? I hope not. I hope you learned that lesson,” he said. “You have no control over [Gilani], do you? You’re like, talking to a wall,” he said of Gilani.
Hadeed said three different signatures from Abid on financial documents did not match, and put a defiant Abid on the witness stand.
Hadeed: Why do your signatures look different?
Abid: My signatures are not very consistent, I’m just a human being…
Hadeed: You were aware you were changing beneficiary from your father’s spouse to yourself?
Abid: That was my father’s request…
Hadeed: You’re not answering the question.
Abid: I’m not very smart, so it takes a while sometimes…
Judge: I don’t understand why the witness is having such trouble with the question. Your job is to answer the question.
In court documents, Gilani alleged, “while he was admitted in hospital my telephone conversations were taped and some other recording devices were also installed/planted in my house … Imran Awan showed up and threatened me for me calling the police. [Imran] threatened that he is very powerful and if I ever call the police again [he] will do harm to me.” She said that Imran eventually agreed to remove the listening devices and did so in front of her.
Based on Hadeed’s narrow legal argument about the life insurance contract’s language, the judge ruled that, “The son as the owner of the policy has the absolute right to change the beneficiary.”
After Gilani retained a lawyer, Bacon had offered a settlement where they’d split the money, but Gilani declined it.
The court awarded Abid the $50,000 life insurance payout, minus $5,000 that the insurance company took for its expenses in litigating the fraud allegations.
“You should have taken the settlement. Now she’s not getting a penny,” Bacon said in court. “You’re not getting anything.”
Gilani said after court that her conscience didn’t allow her to settle.
“I didn’t do the deal because they had been adopting bad behaviors. I cannot agree to that. It wasn’t about the money,” she said.
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