A federal grand jury has charged a former IT staffer for ex-Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz with bank fraud charges, the US Attorney's office announced Thursday.
Imran Awan was arrested July 24 before getting on a plane to Pakistan. The charges against the 37-year-old involve a home loan for rental properties owned by the former IT staffer, but his arrest has become the center of unfounded conspiracy theories in conservative and pro-Trump media that have tried to link Awan to the leaking of DNC emails during the presidential election.
In fact, there is no evidence suggesting that is true, and the charges facing the former DC staffer appear to be much less explosive than the stories spun by conservative commentators in past weeks.
On Thursday, the US Attorney's office announced the grand jury was levying bank fraud charges against Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi.
According to the grand jury indictment released Thursday, Awan and his wife are accused of taking out home equity loans on two Virginia homes, which are owned by the couple but used as rental properties.
Awan and Alvi allegedly falsely told the Congressional Federal Credit Union they were using the two properties as their primary and secondary homes, but had instead already signed lease agreements to rent the properties.
The Congressional Federal Credit Union does not offer home equity loans if the property is being rented out, the indictment states.
The couple allegedly lied in their applications for the loans of $165,000 and $120,000, before transferring the money to Pakistan in January. The indictment does not mention who received the money, or why the couple was transferring the money there.
The husband and wife are both facing charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on a loan application, and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
The arrest of Awan might have gone completely unnoticed by most news outlets if not for conspiracy theories that reveled in Awan's case, suggesting it was he who leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks, not Russian operatives.
Picked up by conspiratorial outlets and conservative personalities like Sean Hannity, Awan's unfounded links to Wikileaks were often repeated as a possible debunk to the notion that Russian operatives were behind the DNC hack and leaking of emails during the 2016 election (which US intelligence agencies say was done by Russia in an effort to meddle in the election).
Similar theories surrounded the death of former DNC staff member Seth Rich, after Fox News aired a report alleging he had been in contact with Wikileaks. Fox News has since retracted the story and a private investigator who was the primary source for the report has filed a suit against Fox.
Awan, his wife, his brother, and two friends were also investigated in February for the possible theft of IT equipment and data from the House of Representatives.
The five of them appeared to have had access to the computer network of the legislative body.
Awan continued to work for Wasserman Schultz's office at the time, but after a six-month investigation, no charges were filed against the five.
When they were detained at Dulles Airport in July, an FBI agent noted in the complaint the family had suddenly taken their three children out of school, and had packed several goods for the trip, including food and $12,400 in cash.
The family had bought a return ticket, but the FBI suspects they had no intention of returning to the US.
An arraignment has not yet been scheduled for Awan or his wife.
Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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