In an incredible sweetheart plea deal, Imran Awan – a former IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and other congressional Democrats – pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of making a false statement on a home equity loan.
I sat flabbergasted in the courtroom in Washington as the plea agreement was entered.
I spent the last year interviewing hundreds of people and chasing leads for my upcoming book –titled “Spies in Congress” – about the alleged spy ring believed led by Awan that may have operated in the offices of more than 40 Democratic members of Congress.
If not for my extensive research on this case, I might have assumed the government just couldn’t find enough evidence to make a solid case against Awan on more serious charges than bank fraud.
When I asked Justice Department prosecutor J.P. Cooney why the government made this odd plea deal he just smiled and waved me away as he told me to ask the Justice Department Office of Public Affairs. The office declined to answer my questions.
Shockingly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia issued a news release about Awan’s plea agreement that made no mention of his IT work for Democrats in Congress, no mention of Wasserman Schultz, and made his case sound like a minor local criminal matter of little interest to anyone. It was headlined: “Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Making False Statement on Application for Home Equity Loan.”
Ho-hum, right? Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
Awan is due to be sentenced Aug. 21 and could get off with no jail sentence, according the plea agreement. Prosecutors said they would not recommend jail time – in effect, giving Awan a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Just like that, the Department of Justice is making an important case go away as if nothing much happened.