A Florida pastor and his son are accused of fraudulently obtaining over $8 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for their family-run Christian ministry.
Evan Edwards and his son Josh Edwards were arrested early Wednesday morning in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The two men are facing six charges, including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and visa fraud, according to NBC News.
The charges come two years after federal prosecutors filed a civil complaint against the family in December 2020, including against Evan’s wife, Mary Jane, and daughter, Joy.
However, prosecutors say that the Edwards family used that loan to purchase a $3.7 million luxury home near Walt Disney World Resort. “The remaining funds were transferred among multiple bank accounts held by the conspirators in an attempt to hide and conceal their whereabouts,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
Furthermore, the recent federal indictment alleges that Josh Edwards wrote false information in their loan application on behalf of ASLAN, where their monthly payroll expenses, number of employees, and annual revenue were “significantly lower” than what was stated in the application, Law & Crime reported.
Eight men from New York City allegedly stole $2 million in coronavirus relief and then flaunted the cash online, prosecutors said. https://t.co/5MfDeSkSRe
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) May 21, 2021
In April 2021, a federal judge ordered the family to forfeit the $8.4 million it obtained from PPP. The family did not challenge the ruling. Federal authorities also seized the $860,000 that was being held for the down payment on the luxury home, according to the civil forfeiture complaint.
A source familiar with the investigation told NBC News that officials started moving the case along after a report from the outlet that questioned why no family member had been indicted, despite the complaint being filed in December 2020.
Evan and Josh Edwards were set to appear before a federal judge in Orlando Wednesday, but Evan’s lawyer told the judge that he did not want to leave his wheelchair due to medical concerns, NBC affiliate WESH reported. Evan also was seemingly nonverbal.
The judge then requested U.S. Marshals bring Evan to a medical facility.
Josh Edwards was present for the hearing but also appeared to be nonverbal with the judge. Despite the judge ordering a psychiatric evaluation of Josh, a federal attorney claimed he spoke to agents before appearing in court.
Evan Edwards grew up in Edmonton, Canada, and founded ASLAN International Ministries in 2005 in Ohio.
The Edwards family lived and operated ASLAN in Turkey, acting as missionaries in the predominately Muslim country, before applying to move the nonprofit organization to Florida in 2018, the Daily Mail reported. The family eventually purchased a property and moved to the Sunshine State that same year.
The family is also accused of fraudulently obtaining funds from Canada’s covid relief fund in 2020, receiving $2,000 each, ClickOrlando.com noted.