A Florida pastor accused of fraudulently receiving $8.4 million in COVID charges is accused of faking an illness to avoid jail time.
Evan Edwards, 64, has been in hospital since December when he was arrested with his son Josh for allegedly forging documents from his company, ASLAN International Ministry.
Edwards allegedly used the pandemic CARES-ACT to apply for the loans through the 2020 Paycheck Protection Program. His family planned to use the money to buy a $3.7 million home at Disney World Resort.
The pastor was evaluated by a psychiatrist after failing to attend one court hearing last year and being unable to speak properly during another, according to NBC.
A judge ruled him unfit to appear in court on January 26, but some speculate Edwards may be faking his illness to avoid a trial.
Evan Edwards, 64, has been in hospital since December when he was arrested with his son for allegedly forging documents from his company, ASLAN International Ministry
Edwards allegedly used the pandemic CARES-ACT to apply for the loans through the 2020 Paycheck Protection Program. His family planned to use the money to buy a $3.7 million home at Disney World Resort
dr Ryan Hall noted that Edwards was not unfit to stand trial after 15 minutes. Hall was unable to identify the suspect’s medical condition and whether it was related to mental health.
Magistrate Judge Leslie Hoffman Price echoed Hall’s unclear findings but insisted the pastor was suffering from a non-specific illness. In December he was arrested in a wheelchair.
“I know there are hints of possible simulance on some aspects, but there are medical issues that are fully verifiable,” Price said.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Brian Phillips was pushing for a competency hearing in response to Price’s question about whether the pastor could communicate.
“Only in a very limited way, Your Honor,” Phillips said, adding that Edward’s responses were “monosyllabic responses or gestures to simple binary questions.”
A hearing to determine whether Edwards will stand trial will be held this month.
The arrest came more than two years after the family – including Edward’s wife Mary Jane Evans (second from right) and daughter Joy, 36 (far right) – were pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol while trying to get out in a Mercedes to flee the country
Edwards’ son Josh is taken away in December after police arrest him
Business records show that ASLAN operated as a family-run, non-profit “State Department,” with father Evan Edwards as chairman and president, son Josh as vice president, and daughter Joy as secretary
Prosecutors last month refused to allow Edwards to be treated at home by his family, who were medically trained to care for him, the news outlet reported.
“This is a difficult situation and a set of facts, but there is an escape story and the family was involved – the same family that would take care of him,” Assistant US Attorney Kara Wick previously said.
Edwards has been hospitalized since detention centers refuse to admit him because he “intervenes at least every hour or two” and needs help with everyday tasks.
A court hearing obtained by the news agency revealed that he must also be fed through a feeding tube.
Edward’s arrest comes more than two years after the family – including Edward’s wife Mary Jane Evans and daughter Joy, 36 – were pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol trying to flee the country in a Mercedes SUV, according to a federal complaint.
Federal agents found bags of shredded paper in the car and their electronics in a Faraday bag — a bag designed to protect against data loss.
They were arrested at the time but released the next day and are said to have fled to Canada until Evan and his son returned to live independently in the home.
According to a 2020 federal court filing, ASLAN Vice President Joshua Edwards first requested a $6.91 million loan, using documents to portray the church as a successful organization that generated $51 million in 2019 revenues. made dollars.
The family’s loan was approved in May 2020 for a total of $8.4 million, nearly $2 million more than requested.
Secret Service agents investigating the fraudulent activity later discovered that the money was deposited into accounts owned by Joshua, Joy, and Evan, who all had just $100 prior to the deposit.
In 2020, the US government seized more than $5.6 million and $1.8 million, respectively, from two Bank of America accounts.
Investigators also found an additional $868,250 deposited into a First American Trust FSB account held by insurance company First American Title.
That money was used for a $3.71 million home at Disney World’s Golden Oak Resort, prosecutors claim.
The church was reportedly incorporated in Ohio in 2005 but later applied to conduct business as a foreign nonprofit in Florida in 2018
Further investigation would also show that the family church was not a legitimate organization.
ASLAN International Ministry was reportedly founded in Ohio in 2005, but later applied to conduct business as a foreign nonprofit in Florida in 2018, according to Click Orlando.
Evan Edwards grew up in Edmonton, Canada, according to an investigation by NBC last year that urged federal authorities not to take any action against the family.
Edward’s devout Christianity began in his 20s when his parents couldn’t give him any more money and he would give it all to the church, his cousin told NBC.
The family lived in Turkey for some time as Christian missionaries. Edward said he had distributed more than 500,000 copies of the New Testament during his time in the Muslim-majority country.
“I have been arrested and harassed by the police and military more than 50 times in Turkey,” he said in a 2012 interview with The Christian Post.
“I’ve jumped fences, slipped through side doors, and hid in the most unlikely of places. The opposition came in the form of the government closing my book distribution company and reporting it to the police.’
They returned to Canada about a decade ago and stayed there for some time.
As recently as October 2018, the family purchased the three-bedroom home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida for $332,500.