Canadian Father And Son Indicted For Fraudulently Obtaining Over $8 Million In COVID-19 Relief Funds
Orlando, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces the unsealing of a six-count indictment charging Evan Edwards (64, New Smyrna Beach) and Joshua Edwards (30, New Smyrna Beach) with federal offenses related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act and visa fraud. Specifically, Evan and Joshua Edwards are each charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and visa fraud. Joshua Edwards is also charged with making a false statement to a lending institution. If convicted on the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud charges, each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each count. If convicted on the visa fraud charges, each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison per count. Joshua Edwards also faces a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment on the false statement offense. The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States intends to forfeit any property constituting, or derived from, proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of these violations. The United States previously obtained seizure warrants and recovered more than $8 million in proceeds from the charged criminal conduct.
According to the indictment, beginning approximately April 3, 2020, and continuing through about September 17, 2020, Evan and Joshua Edwards conspired to commit bank fraud and committed bank fraud by submitting a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan application to an FDIC insured lending institution on behalf of Aslan International Ministry, Inc. (“Aslan”) – a not-for-profit corporation that purportedly provided religious services. In the loan application, the defendants significantly overstated the number of employees and average monthly payroll for Aslan, claiming that it had almost 500 employees and over $2 million in average monthly payroll expenses. They also falsely certified in the loan application that the PPP funds would be used to maintain payroll and for other authorized purposes. Based on the false representations made in the loan application, the defendants received into their bank account approximately $8,417,200 in PPP loan funds, a portion of which they used to make a down payment for the attempted purchase of a multi-million-dollar residence for themselves.
Additionally, in June 2022, Evan and Joshua Edwards each made a materially false statement in certain immigration documents, including their Form I-485 Applications to Register as Permanent Resident or Adjust Status.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Smyrna Beach Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kara M. Wick.
This case is being prosecuted as part the Department of Justice’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the CARES Act relief programs. The CARES Act is a federal law enacted in March 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of the PPP program, which was administered by the Small Business Administration (the “SBA”). The purpose of PPP loans was to help small businesses that were suffering from economic downturn to continue to pay salary or wages to their employees. The Department of Justice remains vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis.