Ex-Dem IT aide Imran Awan pleads guilty to bank fraud in deal with prosecutors

Imran Awan, the former IT aide to congressional Democrats whose federal court case has drawn the interest of President Trump and other Republicans, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal bank fraud in a plea deal where prosecutors said they "uncovered no evidence" that Awan "violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems."

During a hearing before U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in Washington, Awan pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a loan application. As part of the deal, the prosecution dropped fraud charges against Awan's wife, Hina Alvi.

The case has generated interest from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have suggested Awan could have been involved in a cyber breach operation. But prosecutors said Tuesday they investigated allegations of misconduct by Awan while on the job in Congress and determined federal charges were not warranted.

"Particularly, the government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information," the prosecution said in the plea deal.

Prosecutors said the government conducted a “thorough investigation of those allegations.”

The government interviewed 40 witnesses, took custody of the House Democratic Caucus server and other devices, reviewed electronic communications between House employees and questioned Awan during multiple voluntary interviews, the plea deal said.

Awan worked for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and other Democrats. He admitted in Tuesday's plea deal to working to obtain home equity lines of credit from the Congressional Federal Credit Union in December 2016 by giving false information about a property.

Awan’s attorney, Christopher J. Gowen, said in court Tuesday they are seeking a probation-only sentence without a fine or restitution. A sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 21.

Chutkan on Tuesday granted the defense's request to remove Awan's court-mandated electronic tracking device, but kept in place a limit Awan traveling beyond 150 miles from his residence.

A grand jury in August first returned an indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Awan and his wife with federal bank fraud.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI’s Washington field office.

Trump has tweeted about the case and referred to Awan as “the Pakistani mystery man.” Trump also mentioned Awan in a New York Times story last year, saying, “Whatever happened to this Pakistani guy who worked with the DNC?”

Philip G. Kiko, the chief administrative officer of the House, said in April that the House’s inspector general “discovered evidence of procurement fraud and irregularities” and “numerous violations of House security policies” by Awan and other IT employees connected to him.

The federal court case against Awan had been hit with repeated delays over the last six months -- a situation fueled by allegations in the media that, according to his attorney, have piqued the curiosity of prosecutors. Since November, a judge postponed Awan’s court hearing in U.S. District Court six times at the request of the prosecution and defense.

Awan and other IT aides for House Democrats originally had been on investigators’ radar for months over concerns of alleged equipment theft, access to sensitive computer systems and more, according to reports dating back to early 2017.

Awan was born in Pakistan, but came to the U.S. with his family when he was a teenager. He was arrested last summer at Dulles International Airport outside Washington before trying to board a flight to Pakistan.

The broader case surrounding him also has put renewed scrutiny on Wasserman Schultz for keeping Awan on the payroll for months, even after a criminal investigation was revealed and he was barred from the House IT network.

Most lawmakers fired Awan in February 2017, but Wasserman Schultz had kept him on until his arrest in July.

Wasserman Schultz has blamed the “right-wing media circus fringe” for the attention on Awan, suggesting it's all part of an effort to distract from the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and possible ties to Trump's team.

“We rely on our justice system to produce a fair result, after a considered, objective review," David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, said Tuesday. "That role is even more important at a time when Donald Trump and his allies spread dangerous distortions with the intent of falsely smearing his political opponents.”