Florida pastor and his son are arrested in alleged $8 million Covid scam

A Florida pastor and his son have been arrested Wednesday on prices of fraudulently acquiring greater than $8 million in federal Covid aid funds and trying to make use of a few of the cash to purchase a luxurious residence close to Walt Disney World.

Evan Edwards and his son, Josh, 30, have been taken into custody 5 months after an NBC Information report raised questions over why they hadn’t been charged within the alleged rip-off, which federal prosecutors first recognized in courtroom papers in December 2020.

It wasn’t instantly clear if the household had employed an lawyer.

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The case dates again to April 2020 when Josh Edwards utilized for a $6 million Paycheck Safety Program mortgage to cowl payroll, hire and utilities for his household’s ministry. Within the mortgage software, he claimed that the group, ASLAN Worldwide Ministry, had 486 staff and a month-to-month payroll of $2.7 million, in accordance with a federal forfeiture grievance.

ASLAN Worldwide was finally accredited for an $8.4 million mortgage.

However when federal investigators confirmed up on the ministry’s workplace in Orlando, the door was locked and staff on the neighboring companies instructed them no person was ever seen inside, the grievance says. A evaluation of the ministry’s web site discovered that the donation hyperlinks have been inactive and sections of textual content have been apparently lifted from different spiritual websites, in accordance with the grievance.

There have been different crimson flags. The person who was listed on the mortgage software because the ministry’s accountant suffered from dementia and hadn’t completed any work for the group since 2017, federal prosecutors mentioned in courtroom papers, citing an interview with the person’s son.

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The household’s New Smyrna Seaside home. (NBC Information)

The Edwards household, initially from Canada, did missionary work in Turkey for a few years earlier than shifting to Florida in 2019. They settled in a newly-built group in New Smyrna Seaside, situated about an hour’s drive from Orlando. In September 2020, federal brokers descended on the house to execute a search warrant however nobody was there and the place had been “cleared out,” in accordance with the civil forfeiture grievance.

Florida cops pulled over the household’s Mercedes SUV later that night. They have been rushing on I-75 north of Gainesville, in accordance with a police report.

Federal brokers arrived on the scene and located baggage of shredded paperwork within the car, in addition to suitcases full of economic data and their digital gadgets stuffed into so-called Faraday baggage, which block radio frequencies to maintain them from being tracked, in accordance with the civil forfeiture grievance.

The household was taken into custody on an unrelated immigration cost however launched the following day when the case was dismissed, in accordance with courtroom data.

Six months later, in April 2021, a federal choose in Florida ordered the forfeiture of the $8.4 million the Edwards household had acquired after the federal government claimed that it was the proceeds from financial institution fraud and cash laundering offenses. The Edwards household didn’t problem the seizure.

They’d tried to make use of a portion of the cash to buy a $3.7 million residence in a brand new Disney World improvement referred to as Golden Oaks, in accordance with the grievance.

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However the deal by no means went via. The authorities seized the $868,000 that was put aside for the down cost on the 4,700-square-foot residence, the grievance says.

This text was initially revealed on NBCNews.com