Pastor And Son In Florida Arrested In Connection With Alleged $8 Million Covid-19 Fraud
According to a report from NBC News, a Florida pastor and his son have been arrested and charged with serious criminal offenses in connection with an alleged $8 million COVID-19-related fraud scheme. Evan Edwards and Josh Edwards—both of Central Florida—allegedly defrauded the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It is alleged to be one of the largest and most brazen PPP fraud cases pursued by federal prosecutors as of this date. In this article, our Orlando white collar crimes attorney provides a more detailed overview of the charges filed in this case.
Allegations: Family Ministry Took in Large PPP Loan, Suspected Misuse of Funds
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was passed into law as part of the CARES Act. It was a key part of the U.S. government’s economic response to the COVID-19 crisis. Businesses and organizations could apply for and receive fully forgivable loans to cover payroll costs during the early stages of the pandemic. As reported by NBC News, ASLAN International Ministry—a family ministry operated by pastor Evan Edwards and his son Josh Edwards—was approved for an $8.4 million PPP loan. To qualify for the loan, the organization claims significant payroll costs. It claimed 486 employees and a monthly payroll approaching $3 million.
However, prosecutors contend that the ministry had few, if any, genuine employees. There may have been no legitimate monthly payroll at all. Notably, Mr. Edwards and his son are originally from Canada. They are now facing a number of different white collar fraud charges, including conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and immigration fraud. As part of the criminal fraud charges filed in the case, the federal government is reportedly also taking civil action to seek the forfeiture of money, property, and assets controlled by the defendants.
Regulators and Law Enforcement are Cracking Down on COVID-19 Fraud
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the federal government put major economic relief packages in place, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). The government made it a priority to get funds out quickly to qualifying applicants. A significant amount of fraud is suspected to have occurred during this period. In response, regulatory agencies and law enforcement agencies have ramped up their efforts to identify and prosecute fraudulent activity. Any person arrested on a COVID-19 fraud offense needs to take immediate action to protect their rights and their future. A Florida white collar defense lawyer can help.
Speak to Our Orlando, FL White Collar Fraud Defense Attorney Today
At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando white collar crimes attorney is an aggressive, solutions-driven advocate for clients. If you or your family member is facing any type of COVID-19 related white collar fraud charge, we are ready to help. Contact our law firm today to arrange your fully confidential initial case review. With a law office in Orlando, we provide criminal defense representation throughout all of Central Florida.