The Capitol Police is a specialized force responsible for securing the safety of Congress and its offices. It’s been in place for nearly two centuries and has protected lawmakers and their staffs from terrorist threats and domestic enemies alike.
But recently, a Capitol Police investigation into internal IT administration in the House of Representatives has confounded staffers and lawmakers who had previously trusted a number of the workers in question. Pakistan-born brothers Imran, Jamal and Abid Awan, were IT managers who were responsible for administrating various members of the House of Representatives’ computer networks from 2009 to 2016.
It now appears that the three brothers, along with the rest of their family, were paid more than $4 million in that time for poorly performed services and most likely illicit activities such as theft of electronic devices and data.
It’s been discovered that the brothers are notorious fraudsters who have left a trail of bankruptcy and deceit in their wake. In fact, Capitol Police have discovered that practically anyone who came into contact with the head brother, Imran, considered him a “dishonest manipulator with an unquenchable thirst for money,” according to The Daily Caller.
“Imran is very cunning and shady,” said Cristal Perpignan, a government manager who had rented a property from him — just one of several the brothers were able to buy with the funds they were paid by the federal government. “He gives you a sob story, and you believe him.”
“They’re brazen,” declared another renter who wished to remain anonymous, claiming that the Awans demanded rent payments in cash. The brothers not only bought property with their government gains, they also ran a now-bankrupt car dealership in partnership with an Iraqi politician, Ali Al-Attar, who’s wanted by the U.S. government.
According to Philip Giraldi, a former CIA employee, Attar “was observed in Beirut, Lebanon conversing with a Hezbollah official” in 2012. (Hezbollah is one of the most notorious terrorist groups in the Middle East, long responsible for acts of violence against Israel and other non-Shia-aligned states.)
Attar not only was involved in the car dealership, he also defrauded Medicaid, Medicare and a number of insurance companies by using medical practices in Virginia and Maryland to bill the government for nonexistent medical procedures. In 2009, the FBI raided the offices of these practices, and in 2011, the federal Department of Health and Human Services filed a lawsuit against one of his business partners. In 2012, Attar was indicted on tax fraud charges and fled to Iraq.
As for the Awans, even their own family members haven’t been safe from their manipulative schemes. Their stepmother, Samina Gilani, said they’d stolen disability checks from her and convinced their ailing father to transfer the management of a life insurance policy to them on his deathbed. Gilani claimed in court documents that “Imran Awan threatened that he is very powerful, and if I ever call the police, [he] will… kidnap my family members back to Pakistan.”
Gilani also charged that the brothers used her to access money that was stashed overseas and that they held her in virtual captivity from October 16, 2016 until February 2, 2017, planting surveillance equipment in her house and listening to private conversations she held with visitors.
House of Representatives officials have acknowledged that the Awans are the subject of a criminal investigation for allegedly “committing serious, potentially illegal violations on the House IT [computer] network.” These violations may include accessing Congress members’ computers without their knowledge and stealing equipment.
In their influential positions, the brothers had access to thousands of sensitive files, emails and personal messages from 31 members of Congress, all belonging to the Democratic Party. In fact, the brothers used recommendations from some Democratic lawmakers to get others to hire them for extra IT work.
A number of those members of Congress were on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, both of which deal with some of the most sensitive and secret documents legislators lay their hands on, including information related to terrorism and homeland security. “You’d think in the [Democratic] Party they’d know these guys were working for all of [these representatives], and they couldn’t possibly support all of them. Someone must have been turning a blind eye,” said one IT specialist knowledgeable about the affair.
One of the Democrats the brothers did work for was former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman and current Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Wasserman-Schultz has refused to turn over computers and files to the Capitol Police investigation and has actually threatened Capitol Police investigators with retaliation for their demands.
But other IT staffers believe Wasserman-Schultz’s lack of cooperation and sometime defense of the brothers, along with similar stances from a number of other Democrats, may be indicative of a blackmail scheme being perpetrated. “I don’t know what they have, but they have something on someone. It’s been months at this point [since an investigation was opened], with no arrests,” said Pat Sowers, a 12-year IT veteran of the House. “Something is rotten in Denmark.”
Some Congressional staffers said the brothers’ work was routinely sub-standard and that requests for IT help were typically ignored for weeks. Records were found showing that members of Congress in some cases were being billed for phone lines that hadn’t been used for years.
“You have the power to shut down the office, remove all their data and lock everyone out. It’s got to be a trusted advisor. How could you not see this? Maybe it’s not specifically blackmail — maybe it’s ‘you knew this was going on, and let me do this,'” suggested one unrelated IT contractor.
According to the same contractor, members of Congress “are saying, ‘don’t say anything; this will all blow over if we don’t say anything.’ The Awans had [Congress people] in their pocket; there are a lot of members who could go down over this.”
An independent IT professional who says he tried to offer similar services to House members at one-fourth the cost was rebuffed repeatedly. This has led him to believe the brothers are asserting some kind of leverage over House members. “There’s no question about it; if I was accused of a tenth of what these guys are accused of, they’d take me out in handcuffs that same day, and I’d never work again,” he stated.
In February, all three brothers were banned from the House IT network, and their security clearances were revoked. The brothers’ wives, who also worked with them, have additionally been banned. Other IT staffers who’ve taken over computers previously managed by the brothers say they have found “thin client” network software that sent data to offsite servers in violation of House technology policies.
All three brothers, who are in their 20s, made at least $160,000 per year each — very nearly the same salary as a member of Congress and three times the average House IT staff salary. There are also indications the brothers had several no-show employees on their payroll at the same income. At least one of those employees had recently been fired from an area McDonald’s. Reportedly, the brothers all prominently made mention of their work at the House to gain additional computer service contracts, and they displayed huge House of Representatives emblems in their homes’ windows.
Since the Capitol Police investigation began, Imran Awan’s wife Hina has moved with the couple’s daughters back to Pakistan, and allegedly is being given government protection there. Despite much negative media attention over the story, some members of Congress continue to insist the brothers did nothing wrong. Unrelated House IT staffers contend there’s some kind of scheme taking place. “There’s probably a core of eight to 10 members [of Congress] that know what’s going on. Several members should be kicked off the Hill,” said one.
As of this writing, the Capitol Police investigation is still ongoing, and the brothers have yet to be charged with any crimes, despite significant evidence pointing to fraud, theft and possibly extortion. Visitors to their homes say they have seen pictures of Imran Awan with former President Bill Clinton among other photos of holy site Mecca. “If they were real Muslims, they wouldn’t treat people like this,” said one relative. Sources such as Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan say the Capitol Police have contacted additional agencies for help with the case.