Wasserman Schultz fires IT staffer following fraud arrest

FILE - In this May 24, 2017, file photo, House Budget Committee member Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. questions Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Capitol Hill in Washington during the committee's hearing on President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 federal budget. Fellow committee member Rep. Susan DelBene, D-Wash. is at left. Wasserman Schultz fired IT staffer Irman Awan on July 25, 2017, following his arrest on a federal bank fraud charge. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has fired an information technology staffer following his arrest on a bank fraud charge at a Virginia airport where he was attempting to fly to Pakistan.

Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron says 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 says 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, pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud in his first appearance Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was released pursuant to a high-intensity supervision program, including the restriction that he not 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 Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations made to obtain a loan. 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 United States.

The FBI agent also stated Awan purchased a flight 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 noted that Awan is an American citizen and said "this outrageous political prosecution" was forcing his children to live in squalor in Pakistan.

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 Aug. 21, according to Gowen.

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The story has been corrected to fix the spelling on the first name of the staffer.

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