Former U.S. Attorney On Awan Indictment: “There Is Something Very Strange Going On Here”
We’ve written frequently over the past couple of months about the litany of unanswered questions surrounding the mysterious case of Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (DWS) IT staffers. Why did DWS seemingly threaten the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police with “consequences” for holding equipment that was confiscated as part of an ongoing legal investigation? Why did DWS keep Awan on her taxpayer funded payroll all the way up until the day he was arrested by the FBI at Dulles airport while trying to flee the country to Pakistan? What, if anything, does the Awan family know about the DNC hacks that may have caused DWS to act in this way?
Now, Andrew McCarthy III, the former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who led the prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, says there is “something very strange” about the recent indictment filed against Imran Awan and his wife Hina Alvi in the District of Columbia.
In a National Review article, McCarthy points out that it’s not what’s in the indictment that is necessarily surprising but rather what is seemingly intentionally omitted. For instance, McCarthy points out that “the indictment appears to go out of its way not to mention” that Imran was apprehended while in the process of fleeing the country, a fact that would seem to be the best evidence available to prove the fraud charges.
Let’s say you’re a prosecutor in Washington. You are investigating a husband and wife, naturalized Americans, who you believe have scammed a federal credit union out of nearly $300,000. You catch them in several false statements about their qualifications for a credit line and their intended use of the money. The strongest part of your case, though, involves the schemers’ transferring the loot to their native Pakistan.
So . . . what’s the best evidence you could possibly have, the slam-dunk proof that their goal was to steal the money and never look back? That’s easy: One after the other, the wife and husband pulled up stakes and tried to high-tail it to Pakistan after they’d wired the funds there — the wife successfully fleeing, the husband nabbed as he was about to board his flight.
Well, here’s a peculiar thing about the Justice Department’s indictment of Imran Awan and Hina Alvi, the alleged fraudster couple who doubled as IT wizzes for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and many other congressional Democrats: There’s not a word in it about flight to Pakistan. The indictment undertakes to describe in detail four counts of bank-fraud conspiracy, false statements on credit applications, and unlawful monetary transactions, yet leaves out the most damning evidence of guilt.
In fact, the indictment appears to go out of its way not to mention it.
Why would prosecutors leave that out of their indictment? Why give Awan’s defense a basis to claim that, since the indictment does not allege anything about flight to Pakistan, the court should bar any mention of it during the trial? In fact, quite apart from the manifest case-related reasons to plead instances of flight, a competent prosecutor would have included them in the indictment simply to underscore that Awan is a flight risk who should have onerous bail conditions or even be detained pretrial.
Then there is the case of Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi. When she fled the country back in March she was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents with over $12,000 cash in her luggage, technically a crime by itself if not properly disclosed, but was allowed by the FBI to leave the country despite having been under investigation for months.
We must also ask, again: Why did the FBI allow Alvi to flee? Before she boarded her March 5 flight to Qatar (en route to Pakistan), agents briefly detained her. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had already searched her baggage and found $12,400 in cash. As I have pointed out, it is a felony to move more than $10,000 in U.S. currency out of the country unless one completes the required government report (see sections 5316 and 5322 of Title 31, U.S. Code). There was no indication that she did so in the complaint affidavit submitted to the court when Awan was arrested last month (see FBI complaint affidavit, pages 8–9).
By the time Alvi fled, the Awans had been under investigation by various federal agencies for at least three months. The FBI was sufficiently attuned to the Awans’ criminality that its agents went to the trouble of chasing Alvi to the airport. If she didn’t fill out the required form, she should have been arrested for the currency violation. Is it possible that, rather than arresting her, federal agents instructed her to complete the form on the spot? One would hope not, but even in such an unlikely event, Alvi would undoubtedly have made false statements about the provenance of the cash. That would also have been a felony, providing more grounds for her arrest. Why let her go, especially when, as its agent told the court in the aforementioned affidavit, the FBI “does not believe that ALVI has any intention to return to the United States”?
And then there is just the continued secrecy surrounding the case. Why did the U.S. Attorney’s office decide against filing a press release in a case that has garnered significant national attention? Why was the case filed in a district where DWS’s brother has been an assistant U.S. attorney for many years?
To begin with, it is not the easiest thing to get one’s hands on the indictment. The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. There is no press release about the indictment on the office’s website, though U.S. attorneys’ offices routinely issue press releases and make charging documents available in cases of far less national prominence. (I found the indictment through the Orlando Sentinel, which obtained and posted it in conjunction with the paper’s report on the filing of charges.)
By the way, the U.S. attorney’s office is currently led by Channing D. Phillips, an Obama holdover who was never confirmed. Still awaiting Senate confirmation is Jessie Liu, nominated by President Trump in June. Meanwhile, Steven Wasserman, Representative Wasserman Schultz’s brother, has been an assistant U.S. attorney in the office for many years. I have seen no indication that he has any formal role in the case, notwithstanding some cyberspace speculation to the contrary. What is clear, however, is that the office is low-keying the Awan prosecution.
The indictment itself is drawn very narrowly. All four charges flow from a financial-fraud conspiracy of short duration. Only Imran Awan and his wife are named as defendants. There is no reference to Awan-family perfidy in connection with the House communications system.
Of course, we’re sure it’s probably nothing but at least one former U.S. Attorney says “there is something very strange going on here.”
The full Grand Jury indictment can be viewed here: