Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A former IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats was indicted Thursday on fraud charges after he and his wife attempted to leave the United States for Pakistan.
The charges do not stem directly from work performed while on the congressional payroll, however prosecutors said the aide, Imran Awan, knowingly violated policies governing the Congressional Federal Credit Union and lied on two loan applications.
Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, who also worked as an IT aide for Democrats on Capitol Hill, are accused of taking out $285,000 in home equity loans against two rental properties they owned in Virginia. The couple subsequently transferred nearly all of the money to associates in Pakistan. They eventually repaid one loan, but failed to repay $165,000 from the second.
The Congressional Federal Credit Union, which is available to members of Congress and their staff, does not permit individuals from taking out loans against rental properties because they are not the recipient's primary residence. Prosecutors said the couple lied and covered up the fact the homes were rental properties.
The credit union is housed in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
Awan and Alvi were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud; false statements on a loan or credit application; unlawful monetary transactions; and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
Awan was apprehended by federal agents at Dulles International Airport in Virginia last month as he attempted to board a flight for Pakistan. Awan remained on Wasserman Schultz's payroll until after his arrest in July. At the time of Awan's arrest, Alvi had already left the United States for Pakistan. Politico cited anonymous law enforcement sources who said she left the United States with a large amount of luggage and $12,000 in cash, along with the couple's three children.
The two, along with other members of their family, were employed jointly by a group of Democratic lawmakers who relied on their information technology expertise. Awan's boss, Wasserman Schultz, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, is not accused of any wrongdoing, but political foes have sharply criticized her judgment in employing Awan for months after prosecutors notified her of the ongoing investigation into the wire transfers, and that his access to House of Representatives computer servers had been suspended. Other House members quickly fired Awan, but Wasserman Schultz kept him on her staff, changing his job duties to avoid working as a network administrator.
Wasserman Schultz defended her decision not to fire Awan immediately after her office was notified of the investigation, saying it was the "right thing to do."
"I had grave concerns about his due process rights being violated," she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "When their investigation was reviewed with me, I was presented with no evidence of anything that they were being investigated for. And so that, in me, gave me great concern that his due process rights were being violated. That there were racial and ethnic profiling concerns that I had."
Awan's lawyer told the Sun Sentinel he had not seen Thursday's indictment and declined to comment. Previously, he defended his client as a target of discrimination, saying his only crime was "working while Muslim."