Court Case Against Former House IT Aide Delayed Again

Hearing involving Imran Awan, who made unauthorized logins on congressional servers, postponed for seventh time
June 5, 2018 Updated: June 5, 2018    

The federal court case against Imran Awan, a former information technology (IT) administrator who worked for dozens of House Democrats, was delayed again on Tuesday to July 6.

This is the 7th time the court hearing has been postponed since November last year. Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, have been charged with bank fraud.

Many of the delays appear to be related to a laptop that Awan left in a decommissioned phone booth in a House building in April last year.

The laptop, which had the username “RepDWS,” was accompanied by several copies of ID cards belonging to Awan and a letter he wrote to prosecutors.

Awan had been employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)—whose initials (RepDWS) were on the laptop—since 2005.

After the laptop was found by Capitol Police, Wasserman Schultz attempted for months to have the laptop returned to her, including hiring an outside lawyer to prevent prosecutors from looking at it.

During a May 18 hearing, Wasserman Schultz told the Capitol Police chief there would be “consequences” if the laptop was not returned to her.

Awan’s lawyer, Chris Gowen, argued in October last year that he feels “very strongly” that the laptop should not be used as evidence in the federal court case, citing attorney-client privilege.

Unauthorized Access

House leaders and the Committee on House Administration (CHA) were briefed on Sept. 20, 2016, by the Office of Inspector General that Awan and other IT workers connected to him were logging in to the servers of 15 House members they didn’t work for.

After Awan was hired by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and four other House Democrats, several of Awan’s family members, including his wife and his brother Abid, Awan joined the congressional payroll.

The IT workers were paid an estimated $7 million by Congress since 2004.

According to the briefing by the inspector general, the IT workers also made excessive logons to a Democratic Caucus server and three of its workstations.

Click on timeline to enlarge.

“Excessive logons are an indication that the server is being used for nefarious purposes and elevated the risk that individuals could be reading and/or removing information,” the office said in the briefing, which was not publicly released.

The inspector general briefing also revealed that Dropbox had been installed on at least two computers that were uploading files online, in defiance of House policy. The Dropbox accounts contained thousands of files, which, according to the inspector general, contained information that was likely sensitive.

Troubled Investigation

Despite the findings by the inspector general, House leadership did not ban the five IT workers in question from the network until Feb. 2.

At that point in time, the investigation had been reassigned from the inspector general to Capitol Police, despite the police having no cybersecurity experience.

A day after the sergeant-at-arms officially banned Awan and his associates from the network, most of the 44 House Democrats who had employed them ended their contracts with them.

Wasserman Schultz, however, did not fire Awan, saying he could service her technology needs without accessing the network. Despite the ongoing investigation, she also added his wife, Hina, to the payroll.

The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) reported last month that the police told Capitol Hill staff in June 2017 that they were not planning to conduct more interviews. It also reported that House IT workers with knowledge of alleged wrongdoing by the Awans were never approached.

The IT workers were never charged in relation to the unauthorized logins on the House system. Instead, the charges faced by Awan and his wife involve bank fraud.

An article published on June 5 by the DCNF cites an unnamed House employee as saying that Wasserman Schultz had attempted to kill the House investigation after it found that Awan had made numerous unauthorized logins to congressional servers.

The article also shed light on the close relationship between Wasserman Schultz and Awan. Citing sources familiar with the relationship, DNCF reported Awan had told people that Wasserman Schultz chose the name of his daughter, Leza, and allegedly intervened on Awan’s behalf in a land deal in Pakistan in which his father had been charged with fraud.