ORLANDO, Fla. - A Florida pastor and his son were arrested by federal agents on Wednesday, accused of fraudulently receiving millions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Investigators said Evan and Joshua Edwards received $8.4 million and allegedly tried buying a multi-million dollar home near Walt Disney World. According to a federal indictment, they claimed ASLAN International Ministries had nearly 500 employees and fabricated documents showing millions of dollars in wages. However, federal investigators said the real numbers were significantly lower or nonexistent.
Some local lawmakers who worked on helping legitimate businesses during the pandemic gave FOX 35 News their reaction.
"It’s incredibly disappointing knowing that as we were helping thousands of Floridians access unemployment benefits, PPP, Idle, shuttered venue assistance, you have individuals committing fraud," said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. "And not just committing fraud but using that money to for purchases like million-dollar homes."
- Florida man pleads guilty to fraudulent $7.2M COVID-19 relief
- Florida lawmaker accused of fraudulently obtaining coronavirus-related loan
"I hope everyone, whether you took $8 million or $8,000, you’ve stolen that from my children and your children and I hope you go to jail for a very long time," said Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay.
There are many cases of COVID relief fraud still being prosecuted years later. A few months ago, a man pleaded guilty after allegedly using PPP funds to buy luxury cars and a mansion in Seminole County. Just last week, a state lawmaker resigned after he was accused of fraudulently obtaining a coronavirus-related loan.
The federal government had already ordered Evan and Joshua Edwards to return the $8.4 million. They now face several charges, including bank fraud.