An ethics complaint has been filed against a Democratic congressman who reportedly paid $60,000 in taxpayer funds to a “ghost employee,” who had been fired from his job at McDonald’s, while the lawmaker’s office allowed a Pakistani-born IT aide to access his servers without authorization.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. – a former co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s Missouri campaign and co-chair of her national Faith Steering Committee who delivered a fiery speech praising Clinton at the Democratic National Convention – is accused of paying an unqualified former McDonald’s employee, Rao Abbas, to be his IT aide, according to an ethics complaint filed Wednesday by the ethics watchdog Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT.
The organization accuses Cleaver of grossly misusing House resources by giving the funds to Abbas for IT work he never performed – and for allowing Awan, a non-employee who is now facing bank-fraud charges, to perform IT services.
Despite paying Abbas $60,183 from 2013 to 2016, Cleaver has reportedly stated that he doesn’t even know the former fast-food worker.
“Imran [Awan] is the guy who worked in our office. I don’t know this other guy,” Cleaver said in an audio recording posted by the Daily Caller.
The scandal gets even more bizarre, according to FACT, which noted that a tenant who lived in Abbas’ home claimed the man “appear[ed] to be home most days.”
Abbas was reportedly involved in a car-selling business, Cars International, with Awan and Awan’s brother, who owed Abbas money. Abbas lived in the basement of a home owned by Imran Awan’s wife.
Both Abbas and Awan were banned from the House IT systems after they became subjects of a Capitol Police probe.
As WND reported, IT staffer Imran Awan, his brothers Abid and Jamal, and their wives Natalia Sova and Hina Alvi, were highly paid IT administrators working for dozens of House Democrats until Capitol Police began probing them in early 2017.
WND reported in January that the aides sometimes even logged in as congressmen to cover their tracks. Authorities said there is evidence the members’ data may have been aggregated onto one server, which then was physically stolen.
The IT staffers allegedly ran a ghost employee scheme with a take of nearly $6 million over the years. After wiring approximately $300,000 to his native Pakistan in July, Imran Awan was arrested by the FBI at Dulles International Airport. He was then indicted on four counts of bank fraud in connection with his wire transfer. He was carrying $12,000 in cash on him at the time of his arrest.
There have been no criminal charges related to the House IT breach. The indictments of two of the suspects were only for bank fraud, after prosecutors said the suspects transferred money from the House bank to Pakistan and tried to flee the country.
A House’s Office of the Inspector General report summarized the findings of a four-month internal investigation that said the behavior of the aides mirrored a “classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization,” the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. Still, neither the Department of Justice nor the FBI has filed charges.
The House report found remote sessions on computers of members that remained active for months at a time. A House committee staffer close to the probe told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “the data was always out of [the members’] possession.”
“It was a breach. They were using the House Democratic Caucus as their central service warehouse.”
The House report said all five of the shared employee system administrators collectively logged onto the Democrat members’ system 5,735 times, an average of 27 times per day.
“This is considered unusual since computers in other offices managed by these shared employees were accessed in total less than 60 times,” the report said.
Imran Awan spent several months each year in Pakistan and continued accessing the House server remotely when he was abroad.
Democratic Party lawmakers – with the exception of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. – fired the Awan family members as employees a year ago when suspicions were raised.
Awan worked for Wasserman Schultz for 13 years, beginning when she was first elected to Congress in 2004.
In the ethics complaint against Cleaver, FACT explains:
The facts appear simple: Cleaver accepted IT services from Awan, who he did not employ and who he gave access to data and the House IT system. Moreover, Cleaver used taxpayer dollars to pay over $60,0000 to Abbas, who he did not know and the evidence indicates did not do work for him. The legal and ethical violations that stem from these facts are serious and far reaching, but there are two clear straightforward violations. First, Members are prohibited from accepting services from non-employees. Because this was also in the context of accepting IT services, the 15 House Information Security Policy also applies, which forbids Members from allowing nonstaffer to be administrators.
Second, Members are prohibited from employing individuals who do not actually perform work. House staff are compensated with taxpayer funds, and a Member is the “employing authority” who is held accountable for their staff. A Member is not only directly responsible for ensuring 17 his or her staff are only paid for official public work, but also that that work has actually been performed and was done so at a commensurate rate. …
FACT called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Cleaver and determine whether the congressman accepted IT services from Awan and paid Abbas as a “ghost employee.”
Abbas accessed email accounts and computers of eight U.S. lawmakers and was able to read every email they sent and received, according to the Daily Caller.
Abbas worked for Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y, in 2014, according to the New York Post. A Crowley spokeswoman told the Post that Abbas set up computers in the office for several days, and they “opted not to go forward with him in the future.”
The ex-McDonald’s worker was also employed by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa.