Luke Rosiak – Investigative Reporter
A former congressional information technology (IT) aide allegedly threatened to have his stepmother’s Pakistani relatives kidnapped if she talked to U.S. law enforcement authorities, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s (TheDCNF) Investigative Group.
“Imran Awan threatened that he is very powerful and if I ever call the police again, [he] will … kidnap my family members back in Pakistan,” Awan’s stepmother, Samina Gilani, claimed in the documents filed April 14 in Fairfax County, Va., in the case of Americo Financial Life and Annuity Insurance Company v. Abid A. Awan and Samina Ashraf Gilani.
Imran Awan and his brothers Abid and Jamal are under criminal investigation by U.S. Capitol Police on suspicion they abused their administrator-level access to sensitive congressional data, as reported Feb. 4 by TheDCNF.
“Imran Awan did admit to me that my phone is tapped and there are devices installed in my house,” including one Gilani claimed in the court filing to have seen “behind the printer.” She also claimed Imran Awan represents himself in Pakistan as a powerful person in Congress and is given police escorts when he spends time in the country.
Gilani has said she was left homeless after Abid Imran forced her to leave the house she previously shared with her husband. Fairfax County land records show Abid owns two residences.
The three brothers, plus two of their wives, were employed on a shared basis by dozens of Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Homeland Security.
The Awans’ IT jobs gave them access to congressional computer networks, including members’ email accounts. They were also linked with an Iraqi politician who is a fugitive from U.S. authorities and who has been linked to the Hezbollah terrorist group in the Middle East.
Authorities terminated the three brothers’ access to House IT systems Feb. 2. Politico reported March 1 that Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New York Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks declined to fire Imran, and that both members have a “friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources.”
Americo said Muhammad Shah took out a $50,000 life insurance policy in 2012, naming Gilani as beneficiary. But on Nov. 16, as Shah lay on his deathbed, Americo received an Ownership Change Request form to allow Abid to be in charge of future administrative decisions.
Then on Jan. 11, Awan used his newly gained status to make himself the beneficiary of the policy instead of his stepmother. The form’s required witness signature was blank, and it was rejected. A week later, Abid re-submitted it but with a notary’s seal.
A police report shows that in January 2017, Gilani called Fairfax police claiming her stepsons refused to let her see her dying husband in his final moments. Police said Abid angrily waved an unsigned power-of-attorney document at an officer and refused to give Shah’s location.
Shah died of cancer Jan. 16 and Americo received a claim on Feb. 2 for the $50,000 to be paid to Abid. Americo told the court it also received a letter from Gilani contending the “beneficiary changes to the policy were procured through fraud.”
Abid told the company he’d “recorded by videotape the signing of the ownership change” in anticipation of problems, and sent the video to them.
On the form Shah signed, a signature line asking for the spouse of the previous owner to consent was blank. A line asking for the signature of a witness was signed by Abid’s wife, according to court documents.
Americo said it “cannot safely determine who is rightfully entitled to the policy proceeds” and asked the court to resolve the issue.
Gilani said in the court documents that she and her husband were in Pakistan until October 2016 when “due to his severe health condition,” they returned to the U.S. so he could be hospitalized. At that point, she “was completely denied by [Shah’s] children to visit him in hospital. Meanwhile, all relevant papers and two laptop computers were also taken from my house illegally.”
She said in the court documents that the children barred her from leaving the house, saying “telephone conversations were taped and some other recording devices were also installed/planted in my house … I was directed by [Shah’s] children not to go out or visit [him] without the children’s permission.”
Gilani also said it was “worth mentioning here that Mr. Shahid Imran Awan introduces himself someone from U.S. Congress or someone from federal agencies,” and travels with a VIP police escort in Pakistan based on his representations about his political power in the U.S.
Imran additionally demanded that Gilani sign a Pakistani power-of-attorney enabling the brothers to take possession of valuables owned by their father there, Gilani said.
“I was put under tremendous pressure to sign the power of attorney to Mr. Shahid Imran Awan for Pakistani properties.”
Gilani told the court that Shah was injured in 2007 in a car accident in Pakistan that killed his first wife. He got insurance money and government disability payments in the U.S. as a result, but “Imran Awan took Mr. Ashraf’s money fraudulently by signing legal documents with phony/fake signatures” at that time, too, she said.
She said Shah told her and others that he filed a police report against his son at the time, but later withdrew it. Gilani does not speak English and does not have a lawyer. Abid is represented by attorney James T. Bacon, who did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
Congressmen have been loathe to address the Awan situation. Meeks, who employed Hina Alvi, Imran Awan’s wife, claimed the family would not do anything wrong and blamed Islamophobia for the police investigation.
Spokesmen for Democratic Reps. Diana Degette of Colorado; Frederica Wilson of Florida; and Karen Bass, Jackie Speier, Julia Brownley, Pete Aguilar and Ted Lieu of California all refused or ignored requests about what they have done to look for data breaches and whether they have fired the brothers. Texas Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro and Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan have fired their employees.