Florida Pastor Arrested for $8.4 Million Covid Loan Fraud – Accused of Faking Illness to Stay out of Court

Florida Pastor Evan Edwards, 64, of New Smyrna Beach, and head of The Aslan International Ministry, was arrested for obtaining $8.4 Million in COVID loans under the CARES ACT. Prosecutors allege he planned to use $3.7 Million of the COVID money to purchase a Disney World Resort Home.

Now prosecutors are accusing him of faking an illness to stay out of court and avoid prison.

Edwards has been examined by Dr. Ryan Hall, who determined that Edwards was NOT unfit to stand trial, stating that he could not identify Edward’s medical condition or whether it was mental health related.

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Federal Magistrate Leslie Price agreed with Dr. Hall’s findings but insisted the pastor suffered from an unspecified illness.

‘I know there’s a suggestion of potential malingering on some aspects, but there are medical issues that are completely verifiable,’ Price said.

Edward’s defense attorney urged for a competency hearing in response to Price’s question of whether the pastor can communicate. A hearing to determine whether Edwards will stand in court is scheduled for this month.

Prosecutors refused to allow Edwards to be treated at home by his family, who have allegedly been medically trained to care for him.

‘This is a difficult situation and set of facts, but there is a history of flight, and the family was involved in that – the same family that would be caring for him,’ Assistant US Attorney Kara Wick previously said.

According to the indictment, beginning approximately April 3, 2020, and continuing through September 17, 2020, Evan and Joshua Edwards conspired to commit bank fraud. He committed bank fraud by submitting a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan application to an FDIC-insured lending institution on behalf of Aslan International Ministry, Inc. (“Aslan”). This not-for-profit corporation purportedly provided religious services.

In the loan application, the defendants significantly overstated the number of employees and average monthly payroll for Aslan, claiming that it had almost 500 employees and over $2 million in average monthly payroll expenses. They also falsely certified in the loan application that the PPP funds would be used to maintain payroll and for other authorized purposes.

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Based on the false representations made in the loan application, the defendants received into their bank account approximately $8,417,200 in PPP loan funds, a portion of which they used to make a down payment for the attempted purchase of a multi-million-dollar residence for themselves in Disney World’s Golden Oak resort, prosecutors allege.

Evan Edwards

Additionally, in June 2022, Evan and Joshua Edwards made a materially false statement in certain immigration documents, including their Form I-485 Applications to Register as Permanent Resident or Adjust Status.

According to a federal complaint, Edward’s arrest came more than two years after the family was stopped by Florida highway patrol trying to flee the country.

Federal agents found bags of shredded paper in the car and their electric devices in a Faraday bag.

If convicted of the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud charges, each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each count.

If convicted on the visa fraud charges, each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison per count. Joshua Edwards also faces a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment on the false statement offense.

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The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States intends to forfeit any property constituting or derived from proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of these violations.

The United States previously obtained seizure warrants and recovered more than $8 million in proceeds from the charged criminal conduct.

Other stories you may want to read:

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