A Florida pastor and his son were arrested on Wednesday for allegedly fraudulently obtaining $8.4 million in COVID relief funds, much of which was used to purchase a luxury mansion on Disney World property.
Evan Edwards and his son Josh — the respective president and vice president of the so-called ASLAN International Ministry — were taken into federal custody from their family home in New Smyrna Beach, a city about 15 miles south of Daytona Beach, NBC News reported.
Wednesday’s arrest came after the Edwards’ Paycheck Protection Program funds were seized by the Secret Service way back in April 2020 after the feds suspected their family ministry was bogus.
“I’m glad they got arrested,” a neighbor, who requested anonymity, told NBC. “It’s a long time coming.”
According to a federal forfeiture complaint, Josh applied for the loan in April 2020, claiming his family’s religious nonprofit ASLAN had 486 employees and a $2.7 million monthly payroll.
ASLAN’s actual number of employees and payroll expenses were “significantly lower, or entirely nonexistent,” the indictment states.
Despite asking for $6 million, the family ministry — which also hired Evan’s daughter, Joy Edwards, as secretary — was approved for a whopping $8,417,261.38 the following month.
The Edwards then allegedly transferred the funds to various bank accounts linked to members of their family, according to federal authorities.
According to the feds, $868,250 was transferred to a Royal Bank of Canada account in Evan’s wife Mary Janes Edward’s name before it was used to purchase a $3.7 million 4,700-square-foot house on Orlando’s Symphony Grove Drive, which is part of Disney World’s Golden Oak development.
When federal officials visited the New Smyrna Beach home in September 2020, they discovered it had been cleared out. According to a previous federal court filing, the next day, Florida police stopped a car for speeding and discovered all four Edwards members inside with luggage and apparent evidence of their schemes, despite the fact that they claimed they were going to a conference in Texas.
The family, who were originally from Canada, was arrested on an immigration charge but released the next day.