Father, son face charges over alleged $8M Covid relief loan fraud involving ministry

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A father and son have been indicted on multiple charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars of COVID-19 relief money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida announced Thursday. 

In the indictment, prosecutors accused 64-year-old Evan Edwards and his son Joshua, 30, of including "materially false and fraudulent" representations and supporting documentation in a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application they submitted for Aslan International Ministry Inc. They allegedly ended up fraudulently obtaining over $8.4 million from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in PPP loan money, which has since been recovered by authorities, according to the U.S. attorney’s office’s release.

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The indictment alleged they falsely claimed in the loan application that they had over $2.7 million in average monthly payroll costs and over 480 workers at the ministry when both of those were actually "significantly lower, or entirely nonexistent." The father-son pair also purportedly provided "false and fabricated" Internal Revenue Service forms containing misrepresentations about payroll, employee headcounts and annual revenue.

PPP loan concept (istock / iStock)

Some of the PPP loan funds, the prosecutors alleged, went towards a down payment of a "multi-million-dollar residence" the family members tried to buy. The $3.7 million house was located in a private residential community at the Walt Disney World Resort, the Department of Justice said in a prior press release.

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The alleged fraud occurred between April and September 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said. 

Prosecutors further accused Evan and Joshua Edwards of making a "materially false statement in certain immigration documents, including their Form I-485 Applications to Register as Permanent Resident or Adjust Status" in June 2022. The release indicated they are originally from Canada.

PPP fraud (iStock / iStock)

Both men respectively face charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and visa fraud, with the younger Edwards also being accused of making a false statement to a lending institution, the Middle District of Florida said. 

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The conspiracy and bank fraud charges each come with a maximum potential penalty of 30 years imprisonment if convicted, while each count of visa fraud potentially comes with up to 10 years in prison, according to the release. For making a false statement, the younger Edwards also faces up to 30 years if convicted on that count. 

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrower application form (iStock / iStock)

The PPP loan initiative was created via the CARES Act in 2020 to help small businesses cover payroll and certain other expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of the program in May, the SBA has approved over 11.8 million PPP loans amounting to nearly net $800 billion, according to an SBA report.

Fraudsters have likely fraudulently obtained billions of dollars worth of Economic Injury Disaster Loans and PPP loans administered by the SBA, FOX Business previously reported.

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