A Florida pastor and his son are accused of doing some very unholy things.
This morning Pastor Evan Edwards and his son Josh, 30, were arrested for extorting $8 million from taxpayers in a COVID-19 aid scam. Police made the arrest at the Edwards’ home in New Smyrna Beach. The elder Evans was seen being pushed into a wheelchair.
A Florida pastor and his son have been arrested for fraudulently receiving more than $8 million in federal Covid relief funds and attempting to use some of the money to buy a luxury home near Disney World. https://t.co/fwvoPoz7XX
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 14, 2022
The Edwards are Christian missionaries from Canada who moved to Florida in 2019. They ran an organization called ASLAN International Ministry.
According to an indictment unsealed today, Josh Edwards filed “a fraudulent PPP loan application” for $6 million on behalf of ASLAN International Ministry and claimed his ministry had “average monthly payroll costs” in excess of $2.7 million and over 480 employees. In truth, those numbers were “significantly lower or non-existent,” according to prosecutors.
Nevertheless, in 2020, the government finally approved an $8.4 million loan to ASLAN International.
Also See: I Went to Jail for SBA Loan Fraud: 7 Things to Know When Taking COVID-19 Relief Money
A long investigation
The Edwards case dates back to April 2020 when investigators began seeing some red flags surrounding the loan.
For example, the accountant allegedly employed by the ministry suffered from dementia and hadn’t worked for the organization since 2017, according to an NBC News investigation.
Later, when the Florida Highway Patrol passed the Edwards family speeding north down I-75, they discovered garbage bags full of shredded documents and electronic devices packed in what was known as a Faraday bag, which blocks radio frequencies.
Cops also found a 49-page research manual published by the Bureau of Justice titled “Tracing Money Flows Through Financial Institutions.”
Despite the evidence and NBC’s damning report, it took 18 months to press charges in the case.
But today Evan Edwards and his son Josh were taken to federal court in Orlando where they appeared before a judge. According to WESH-2 News, Josh Edwards appeared disoriented and refused to answer the judge’s questions. The judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation.
Meanwhile, the reaction in the community was a mixture of shock and outrage.
“We’re interested in hearing the full story. It’s supposedly totally out of character for a man of God,” a cousin told NBC News.
Some neighbors were less forgiving.
“He stole money during a pandemic,” a neighbor told NBC. “He stole it in the name of God.