Politics

Watchdog Demands House Ethics Probe of Awan Procurement Fraud

New York Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke is accused of letting $120,000 in taxpayer funds go missing as office account was misused

An ethics complaint filed Thursday against Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) for $120,000 in missing tax dollars could shed new light on why congressional investigators described former Capitol Hill information technology (IT) aide Imran Awan as a “threat to national security.”

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a nonprofit government watchdog, called the missing funds a clear violation of House ethics rules in the group’s complaint, filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

“Member has an affirmative duty to ensure taxpayer funds allocated to her office are not abused,” the complaint states. “Additionally, if there is abuse or criminal activity, the member must act to stop it, which at a minimum would require reporting and supporting an investigation and possible recovery of funds …

“Rep. Clarke’s staffer, Wendy Anderson, reportedly contacted Capitol Hill investigators a number of times about irregularities and suspicious facts indicating schemes to steal equipment purchased with taxpayer funds allocated to Rep. Clarke’s office.

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“The first report came after a Saturday in December 2015, when Anderson found IT staffer Abid Awan [Imran’s brother] in the congresswoman’s office with various pieces of equipment, including iPods and Apple TVs. Anderson told Awan to leave the office, and soon after alerted Capitol Hill investigators of her suspicion that Awan was colluding with another member of Clarke’s staff to steal equipment purchased with taxpayers’ dollars.”

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Imran Awan; his brothers, Abid and Jamal; his wife, Hina Alvi; and a friend worked as shared-employee IT aides since 2005 for more than 40 House Democrats, including many who were members of the intelligence, homeland security, and foreign affairs committees. The Awans are from Pakistan.

They were barred from the House computer network early in 2016 when it was discovered they were accessing computers without authorization and downloading official data to an off-site server for unknown purposes. Most of the Democrats who employed the Awans or their associates terminated their employment at that time.

But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) who was also then Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair, kept Imran Awan on her payroll until July 2017, when he was charged with bank fraud after wiring nearly $300,000 to an account in Pakistan.

Awan had access to the DNC computer network via Wasserman Schultz’ personal laptop. FACT filed a complaint about her decision to continue his employment July 2017. But U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu led an investigation that found no evidence he illegally removed data, stole or destroyed information technology equipment, or improperly accessed government information.

Clarke did not respond to a request for comment by LifeZette.

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