United States (US) Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz fired a Pakistani-origin information technology (IT) staffer following his arrest on a bank fraud charge at a Virginia airport where he was attempting to fly to Lahore.
Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron said Imran Awan was fired by the Florida lawmaker on Tuesday.
Awan’s attorney, Chris Gowen, confirmed that his client was arrested at Dulles Airport on Monday. He said Awan was cleared to travel and had informed the House of his plans to visit his family before the scheduled trip.
The 37-year-old Awan of Lorton, Virginia, was arraigned Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on one count of bank fraud.
He pleaded not guilty and was released pursuant to a high-intensity supervision program, including the restriction that he won’t travel beyond a 50-mile radius of his home, according to the court.
An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint states there is probable cause to believe that Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, engaged in a scheme to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations made to obtain a loan.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Brandon Merriman said in the affidavit that the misrepresentations revolved around written assurances that the home serving as collateral for the loan was a “principal residence”.
Merriman said that the credit union normally does not provide home equity lines of credit when the home used to secure the loan is a rental. That’s because they are riskier forms of collateral.
The investigation, which included physical surveillance and interviews, determined that the couple did not reside at the property used to secure the loan.
The agent also attested that bank records show $283,000 was wired to two individuals in Pakistan.
He stated that agents followed Alvi in March to Dulles International Airport and that she was allowed to board a flight.
She has not returned. She has a return flight for September 2017, but the agent said that he believes Alvi has no intention of returning to the US.
The FBI agent also stated Awan purchased a flight ticket to Doha, Qatar, and then to Lahore, Pakistan. He purchased a return flight for a date in January 2018.
Gowen says the federal bank fraud count stems from a “modest real estate matter” and is motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry.
He said he’s confident Awan “will soon be able to clear his name and get on with his life”.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 21, according to Gowen.—AP