An explosive IT scandal on Capitol Hill appears to be getting stranger by the day – and bank fraud isn’t even the beginning of twisted saga.
The top suspect in the House hacking scandal, Imran Awan, allegedly forwarded data from several House Democrats to a secret server.
Awan headed a group of IT workers, mostly relatives, employed by dozens of House Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., for whom he had worked since she took office in 2005 as the representative from Florida’s 23rd district.
When police suspected something was wrong early this year, they asked for a copy of the server.
But they were given a fake image instead.
“[T]hey were provided with an elaborate falsified image designed to hide the massive violations,” the Daily Caller reported. “The falsified image is what ultimately triggered their ban from the House network Feb. 2, according to a senior House official with direct knowledge of the investigation.”
As WND reported, in early February, the three Awan brothers and two of their wives who managed information technology for some 80 Democratic lawmakers were relieved of their duties and barred from House computer networks.
The brothers and their associates are now under criminal investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police, which is getting expert technical assistance, presumably from the FBI. The criminal investigation actually began in late 2016, with the brothers under suspicion of secretly accessing the lawmakers computer networks, storing information on secret servers, and stealing equipment from Congress.
The IT techs were employed by three members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which store sensitive national security documents, including material related to terrorism, on their own committee servers.
As WND reported, federal agents arrested Imran Awan at Dulles Airport in Virginia as he tried to flee the U.S. in July and fly to the Mideast. Awan was arraigned in federal court in Washington, and he pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud following allegations he tried to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union. He and his wife, Hina Alvi, had wired $300,000 to Pakistan.
The Daily Caller now reports that Awan routed data to a secret server linked to the House Democratic Caucus, which was chaired at the time by then-Rep. Xavier Becerra.
Becerra is now the attorney general of California.
“Police informed Becerra that the server was the subject of an investigation and requested a copy of it,” Daily Caller investigative reporter Luke Rosiak reported. “Authorities considered the false image they received to be interference in a criminal investigation …”
On Wednesday, Rosiak tweeted: “Xavier Becerra was told by cops his server had major cybersecurity issues re: Imran. A fake server was given to cops. He remained silent.”
A senior House official with direct knowledge of the investigation told Rosiak that “huge quantities” of data were stored in an unofficial Dropbox account. With that Dropbox account, Awan may have still accessed the data even after he was banned from the House network.
While Awan and his wife were indicted on bank fraud charges in August, at least 45 Democrats have done very little to help law enforcement build a case against them for cybersecurity violations, according to the House official.
On Jan. 24 of this year, Becerra left his position as House representative to become California’s attorney general.
“He wanted to wipe his server, and we brought to his attention it was under investigation. The light-off was we asked for an image of the server, and they deliberately turned over a fake server,” the official told the Daily Caller.
“They were using the House Democratic Caucus as their central service warehouse … It was a breach. The data was completely out of [the members’] possession. Does it mean it was sold to the Russians? I don’t know.”
Police believe the bizarre behavior and faked image were obvious signs that the Awans were intentionally trying to cover their tracks. That’s when the House Sergeant-at-Arms cut off their access to the House network.
The official told the Daily Caller: “For members to say their data was not compromised is simply inaccurate. They had access to all the data including all emails. Imran Awan is the walking example of an insider threat, a criminal actor who had access to everything.”
As WND reported, Hina Alvi struck a deal with federal officials to return to the U.S. to appear at an arraignment as early as Oct. 6, when Awan is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., told Fox News “there is a good chance [Hina Alvi] is going to reach some type of immunity [deal] 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.”
Watch Franks’ comments:
As WND has reported, Awan remained on Wasserman Schultz’s payroll until he was arrested in July. He worked for Wasserman Schultz for 13 years, since she was first elected to national office in 2004 as a Florida representative.
Wasserman Schultz has contended the Awan investigation is “Islamophobic,” claiming he is being persecuted by Capitol Police because he is Muslim.
In May, Wasserman Schultz publicly argued with the Capitol Police chief over a laptop that belonged to her office that was confiscated for the investigation. Awan hid the computer in a crevice of a congressional office building before Capitol Police found it.
The Daily Caller recently reported that the laptop “may have been planted for police to find” by Awan. According to the police report, the laptop bag was discovered along with:
- A Pakistani ID card with the name Mohommed Ashraf Awan.
- A copy – not original – of a drivers license with name Imran Awan.
- A copy (front and back) of Awan’s congressional ID.
- An Apple laptop with the homescreen initials “RepDWS.”
- Composition notebooks with notes handwritten saying “attorney client privilege” and possibly discussing case details.
- Loose letters addressed to U.S. Attorney of D.C. discussing the apparent owner of the bag being investigated.
Wasserman Schultz later threatened “consequences” if the Capitol Police chief did not concede to her demands and return the laptop.
She finally agreed to allow police access to a laptop, though it’s unclear if it was the laptop that she demanded be returned to her.
Awan’s attorney is Chris Gowen, a high-powered Clinton attorney who asked that Awan’s GPS monitoring bracelet be removed because he works for Uber.
However, Uber reportedly has no record of employing any driver matching any variation of Imran’s name.