At least two House IT staffers are reportedly under active criminal investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police for stealing equipment and data and remain employed Tuesday, amid mounting questions regarding how they were able to pass their background checks.
On Saturday, The Daily Caller reported that three brothers — Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan — were “abruptly relieved of their duties on suspicion that they accessed congressional computers without permission.” However, some are still working because, according to a report in Politico Monday, the brothers are “shared employees” — employees hired by multiple offices which use them as needed for IT services. Each office would need to fire them, and “multiple Democrat lawmakers” have not yet terminated the employment of each staffer.
The three brothers were barred from computer networks at the House of Representatives last Thursday, according to the Daily Caller.
Imran’s wife Hina Alvi and another House staffer with connections to Imran Awan are also being investigated in connection with the alleged theft, according to a senior House official close to the investigation:
Three members of the intelligence panel and five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs were among the dozens of members who employed the suspects on a shared basis. The two committees deal with many of the nation’s most sensitive issues and documents, including those related to the war on terrorism.
Also among those whose computer systems may have been compromised is Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida Democrat who was previously the target of a disastrous email hack when she served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign.
The brothers are suspected of serious violations, including accessing members’ computer networks without their knowledge and stealing equipment from Congress.
Jamal handled IT for Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat who serves on both the intelligence and foreign affairs panels.
“As of 2/2, his employment with our office has been terminated,” Castro spokeswoman Erin Hatch told TheDCNF Friday.
According to Politico, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Gregory Meeks are two Democratic lawmakers who have not yet cut ties:
Imran Awan, a longtime House staffer who worked for more than two dozen Democrats since 2004, is still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, though his access to the House IT network has been blocked since last week.“At this time we are continuing to gather information from House officials and will determine the best approach to move forward once we have reviewed that information,” David Damron, communications director for Wasserman Schultz, said in an email when asked by POLITICO if Awan was still working for the Florida Democrat.
Imran Awan and Alvi still remained employed by at least one congressman as of Monday night:
Alvi has worked for more than a dozen House Democrats and the House Democratic Caucus since 2007. At least one member, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), is still employing her.
“My office is in the process of gathering information to make a determination in the near future about the employment of Ms. Alvi with our office,” Meeks said Monday in a statement to POLITICO.
Questions are mounting as to how they all were able to pass background checks considering their histories of financial troubles. As noted by The Daily Caller, Abid, Imran, and Jamal all shared a house in Lorton, Virginia, owned by Hina Alvi, and received unusually high salaries, yet the family seemed to struggle:
Signs of trouble have long been visible in public records. The Congressional Credit Union repossessed Abid’s car in 2009, and he declared bankruptcy in 2012, facing multiple lawsuits.
Alvi, who did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment, has taken multiple second mortgages.
Jamal, who public records suggest is only 22 years old and first began working in the House when he was 20, was paid nearly $160,000 a year, or three times the average House IT staff salary, according to InsideGov, which tracks congressional salaries. Abid was paid $161,000 and Imran $165,000.
The Daily Caller further reported on the family’s financial woes on Tuesday, saying that the three brothers and wife “have a history of massive debts and bankruptcy, a fondness for fast cars and real estate, and unusually complicated webs of intertwined finances”:
Despite the generous salaries, the four were involved in multiple suspicious mortgage transfers and a debt-evading bankruptcy. Abid had more than $1 million in debts following a failed business called Cars International that he ran in Falls Church, Va., from November 2009 to September 2010. Business associates said in court documents that Abid had stolen money and vehicles from them.
According to a congressional source on the Hill, the House passed a rule last year requiring all employees with access to IT to pass background checks in order to flag potential problems such as the credit and legal issues, the DCNF discovered. This congressional source told PJ Media that FBI background checks were applied to all IT employees retroactively. The only way around a background check would have been if a “hiring authority” in a congressional office had signed a waiver attesting to the “trustworthiness and judgment” of the privileged user.
Authorizing Official (AO) Designation form 16.01 designates an employee to be an “Authorizing Official for the purpose of administering and managing privileged accounts.”
At this point, it is not known if these employees received background checks or obtained waivers and if they did receive waivers, who signed them.
PJ Media reached out to the Capitol Police for comment and was told that “the United States Capitol Police does not comment on ongoing investigations.”
PJ Media also reached out to the offices of Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joaquin Castro, Cedric Richmond, Andre Carson, Lois Frankel, Gregory Meeks, and Jackie Speier, as well as former congresswoman and now Senator Tammy Duckworth, for comments on this story.
Only Rep. Andre Carson’s office has responded thus far, referring PJ Media to the Committee on House Administration or the CAO for comment. The CAO’s website says, “We do not handle press inquiries for individual Members of Congress.” PJ Media is awaiting a response from the Committee on House Administration.