A Florida pastor and his son were arrested Wednesday on charges of fraudulently obtaining $8.4 million in COVID aid funds — much of which went toward the purchase of a luxury home on Disney World property.
Evan Edwards and his son Josh — the respective president and vice president of ASLAN International Ministries — were taken into federal custody at their family home in New Smyrna Beach, about 15 miles south of Daytona Beach. This was reported by NBC News.
Wednesday’s arrest comes after Edwards’ Wage Protection Program funds were seized by the Secret Service in April 2020 after the feds suspected their family service was fraudulent.
“I’m glad they were arrested,” the neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, told NBC. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Josh applied for the loan in April 2020, claiming his family’s faith-based nonprofit ASLAN has 486 employees and a monthly salary of $2.7 million. federal forfeiture complaint.
The indictment alleges that ASLAN’s actual headcount and salary costs were “significantly low or nonexistent.”
Although they asked for $6 million, the family ministry, which appointed Evan’s daughter Joy Edwards as secretary, was approved the following month for $8,417,261.38.
Edwards then transferred the money to various bank accounts associated with family members, the feds said.
About $868,250 was sent to a Royal Bank of Canada account in the name of Evan’s wife, Mary Janes Edwards, before it was used to buy a $3.7 million, 4,700-square-foot home on Symphony Grove Drive in Orlando. , according to federal data.
Federal officials visited the New Smyrna Beach home in September 2020 and determined the home had been cleaned. The next day, Florida police stopped a speeding car to find four Edwards members inside with luggage and clear evidence of their schemes, although they claimed they were on their way to a conference in Texas, according to a previous federal court filing.
The family, originally from Canada, was detained on immigration charges but released the next day.
According to the judge’s order, Edwards paid back the full $8.4 million in April 2021.
Evan and Josh were indicted on six counts, including bank fraud and visa fraud.