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Fed arrests Florida pastor and his son in $8 million Covid scam

A Florida pastor and his son were arrested Wednesday on charges of illicitly obtaining more than $8 million in federal coronavirus relief funds, some of which were used to purchase luxury homes near Disney World. rice field.

Evan Edwards and his son Josh, 30, were taken into custody five months after the incident. NBC news coverage It called into question why federal prosecutors first identified in court documents in December 2020 why they weren’t charged with fraud.

It was not immediately clear whether the family had hired a lawyer.

The case dates back to April 2020, when Josh Edwards applied for a $6 million Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover his family’s ministry payroll, rent, and utilities. In his loan application, he claimed that his organization, the ASLAN International Ministry, has his 486 employees and his monthly salary of $2.7 million. According to a federal forfeiture complaint.

ASLAN International was ultimately approved for $8.4 million in financing.

But when federal agents showed up at the ministry’s offices in Orlando, they told them the doors were locked and no workers from nearby businesses had been seen inside. A search of the site revealed that the donation link was inactive and some of the text appeared to have been removed from other religious sites.

There were other red flags. A man named on a loan application as an accountant at the Treasury Department has dementia and had not done any work for the organization since 2017, federal prosecutors said in an interview with the man’s son. said in court documents, citing

Family New Smyrna Beach House.
New Smyrna Beach House of the Edwards family.NBC News

Originally from Canada, the Edwards family spent many years doing missionary work in Turkey before moving to Florida in 2019. New He settled in a new community in Smyrna Beach, about an hour’s drive from Orlando. In September 2020, federal agents came down to the house to execute a search warrant, but no one was there and the place was “wiped out,” according to the civil forfeiture complaint. .

Later that night, Florida police pulled over the family’s Mercedes SUV. Police reports said they were speeding on Interstate 75 north of Gainesville.

Federal agents arrived at the scene and found bags of shredded papers, suitcases full of financial records, and electronics stuffed into so-called Faraday bags. Complaint.

Court records show the family was detained on unrelated immigration charges, but released the next day after the case was dismissed.

Six months later, in April 2021, a federal judge in Florida ordered the forfeiture of $8.4 million received by the Edwards family. This is because the government claimed it was proceeds from bank fraud and money laundering crimes. The Edwards family did not contest the seizure.

The couple tried to use some of the money to buy a $3.7 million home in a new Disney World development called Golden Oaks, according to the complaint.

However, the deal did not go through. Authorities seized his $868,000 set aside as a down payment for the 4,700-square-foot home, the complaint says.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/feds-arrest-florida-pastor-son-8-million-covid-scam-rcna38754 Fed arrests Florida pastor and his son in $8 million Covid scam

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