- Former Democratic IT aides Imran, Abid and Jamal Awan are suspected of committing a cyber-breach and theft on Congress
- While the investigation continues, a potential witness in the case said Abid stole nearly $6,000 from a bank account she controls
- Her email account is being accessed by third parties, and Abid’s attorney knew she emailed the FBI on specific dates
After former Democratic IT aide Imran Awan allegedly threatened his stepmother not to talk to police, her email account was accessed in suspicious ways and a lawyer for one of Awan’s brothers found out she emailed the FBI on specific dates and lashed out at her: “You’re a liar, aren’t you?”
Days after that, a bank account the stepmother controlled was almost completely drained through a payment to Imran’s brother, Abid Awan, bank records show — but she said she is too afraid to press criminal charges because she claims he has threatened her. The stepmother, Samina Gilani, also previously said Imran stole two laptops from her.
Imran, Abid and Jamal Awan — along with Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi, and a friend — worked as IT administrators for 1 out of every 5 House Democrats and could read all their emails and files until police banned them from the network in February 2017 for “numerous violations of House security policies.”
Months later, none of the family is in jail, and the stepmother and other witnesses have said Imran and Abid have used their freedom to try to steer the outcome of the case since, including by threatening them not to cooperate with authorities, TheDCNF previously reported.
In April 2016, the House’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) detected allegedly falsified purchase orders, and the Inspector General quickly expanded the scope to investigate cyber violations, finding that members of the Awan family improperly accessed congressmen’s servers and the House Democratic Caucus server thousands of times.
Though House officials suspected that equipment was being stolen, the Capitol Police did not search their homes, The Daily Caller News Foundation learned, and did not ban them from the network until nearly a year later. In the meantime, evidence appears to have been compromised: In December 2016, the CAO notified congressmen that the caucus server had physically disappeared.
Though Abid played a prominent role in the late-2016 IG report, he has not been arrested, with congressmen saying a criminal investigation is ongoing.
In January 2017, in the days around his father’s death, Abid removed Gilani as the beneficiary of his father’s life insurance and replaced her with himself, which led to a lawsuit, TheDCNF previously reported.
Abid’s attorney, Jim Bacon, used the life insurance lawsuit to force Gilani to sit for a sworn deposition Oct. 4, 2017 in which he told her to reveal what she told the FBI about the congressional criminal probe and tried to get her to find out details from investigators. (RELATED: Awan Lawyer Demanded Witness Reveal What She Told FBI, Probed About ‘Radical Islamic Activities’)
In one exchange, Bacon knew that she had emailed with the FBI.
BACON Q: [redacted] is your email address, isn’t it? And you send emails from that address including two emails to the FBI, didn’t you?
GILANI A: Yes, a long time ago.
Q: No, not a long time ago. March 5th, 2017. March 6th, 2017. Ma’am, you lied to me, didn’t you? You lied to me, didn’t you? You’re a liar, aren’t you?
A: I forgot about that. It was not in my mind.
BACON: Ah. I think we need to take a break before I explode.
Bacon did not respond to questions from the TheDCNF about how he knew Gilani had emailed the FBI on those dates.
Gilani previously said in court documents that “Imran Awan threatened that he is very powerful and if I ever call the police again [he] will do harm to me and my family members back in Pakistan.”
Gilani testified in the deposition for that lawsuit that Imran wiretapped her.
“He has connected my phone, my house phone, with his own phone,” Gilani testified. “Whenever I talked to someone in Pakistan, he told me later on that ‘you told this, you said this.'”
Those allegations underscored fellow House IT aides’ concerns that the Awans could have used House members’ emails for blackmail.
Gilani said in court documents that Imran acknowledged surveilling her, that she saw him remove a device from behind her printer and that Imran took two laptops from her.
To test whether surveillance might also extend to her email, TheDCNF sent emails to Gilani with a tracker that reported where the messages were opened. The emails were opened in London, Pakistan and Texas.
Gilani’s sister, who lives in Pakistan, said she manages Gilani’s email since Gilani does not speak English. Gilani’s sister also said there is no reason the emails should have been opened in the other locations.
TheDCNF later emailed Gilani to ask for comment on this story, but she did not respond. The email was opened in London and Independence, Kansas, but never in Virginia or Lahore, Pakistan.
Two weeks after the deposition, on Oct. 19, 2017, an account Gilani controlled was drained of $5,952 — nearly its entire balance — via a transfer to Abid Awan, bank statements obtained by TheDCNF show. On Feb. 21, 2018, Bank of America credited the amount back to the account as a “claims processing transaction” — phrasing banks typically use when returning fraudulent transfers.
Gilani’s attorney, Michael Hadeed, said that was because the bank recognized that Abid had taken the money without authorization.
Gilani told TheDCNF that Abid used a computer to make the transfer. “He used the online method and the PIN,” she said. “It is another fraud of Abid Awan.”
“Abid Awan is threatening me,” Gilani continued, noting that she was too afraid to press criminal charges. “They can hurt my relatives in Pakistan.”
The account is registered to a nonprofit, the International Sufi Educational Organization, and only Gilani and her deceased husband were authorized to make withdrawals, according to bank account documents. The transaction occurred after Abid’s lawyer forced Gilani to disclose personal details, including her Social Security number, in the deposition.
Bacon did not respond to questions about the email usage or the funds drained from the bank account.
Imran was arrested at Dulles airport in July 2017 and he and Alvi — who both worked for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — were indicted for bank fraud for money moves that allegedly occurred six months earlier. Prosecutors said they believe the dual Pakistani-American citizens had learned of the House investigation shortly before they made the money transfers and that given Imran’s “attempt to depart to Pakistan while knowing he was under investigation, the government asserts that Awan is a flight risk.”
Imran’s attorney said at the time that he thought the bank fraud charges were a “placeholder.” But no additional charges have been brought.
Even as Democrats have frequently talked about the important of enforcing cybersecurity and dedicated significant monies for that purpose, prosecutors said this month that they are negotiating a possible “resolution” with Awan and for months have said they are turning over “voluminous discovery” to Imran’s attorney, despite his not having been charged with anything related to the House investigation.
Meanwhile, House IT aides have told TheDCNF they have knowledge of misconduct but fear retaliation from Democrats if they come forward to law enforcement, and tenants of a rental property Alvi owns who were mentioned in an FBI affidavit told TheDCNF Imran ordered them not to cooperate with police.
Another witness who turned over hard drives to the FBI, Andre Taggart, received a letter from Imran’s attorney demanding money, and Alvi filed a lawsuit in Pakistan saying her husband threatened her with violence, TheDCNF previously reported.
In April 2017, police found a laptop with the username RepDWS that Imran left in a phone booth. Wasserman Schultz subsequently threatened the Capitol Police chief with “consequences” if he didn’t relinquish the evidence. Imran is in possession of a copy of the laptop’s hard drive.
Wajid Ali Syed contributed reporting.
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