A Florida pastor and his son are accused of doing some very unholy things.
Earlier this morning, Pastor Evan Edwards and his son Josh, 30, were arrested for defrauding taxpayers of $8 million in a covid-19 scam. Police made the arrest at Edwards’ home in New Smyrna Beach. The elder Evans was seen being pushed in a wheelchair.
A Florida pastor and his son have been arrested on charges of taking more than $8 million in federal Covid aid and trying to use some of the money to buy a luxury home near Disney World. https://t.co/fwvoPoz7XX
— NBC News (@NBCNews) 14 December 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 submitted a false PPP loan application on behalf of ASLAN International Ministry for $6 million, claiming their ministry had “average monthly payroll expenses” of over $2.7 million and over 480 employees. In truth, according to prosecutors, those numbers were “significantly lower, or non-existent.”
Nevertheless, back in 2020, the government finally approved ASLAN International for an $8.4 million loan.
Related: I Went to Jail for SBA Loan Fraud: 7 Things to Know When Taking COVID-19 Aid
A long investigation
The Edwards case dates back to April 2020, when investigators began to see some red flags surrounding the loan.
For example, the accountant the ministry allegedly used was suffering from dementia and had done no work for the organization since 2017, according to an NBC News investigation.
Later, when the Florida Highway Patrol stopped the Edwards family speeding down I-75 northbound, they discovered trash bags full of shredded documents and electronic devices wrapped in a so-called Faraday bag, which blocks radio frequencies.
Police also found a 49-page research manual published by the Bureau of Justice called “Tracing Money Flows Through Financial Institutions.”
Despite the evidence and the damning NBC report, it took 18 months to press charges.
But today, Evan Edwards and his son Josh were taken to the federal courthouse in Orlando, where they appeared before a judge. Josh Edwards appeared disoriented and refused to answer the referee’s questions, according to WESH-2 News. The judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation.
Meanwhile, the reaction in society has been a mixture of shock and indignation.
“We’re interested in hearing the full story. It’s just completely out of character for a man of God, I guess,” 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. That makes you the worst scuzz on the face of the earth.”