Evan and his family were wanted by federal agents in Florida for a number of days after their SUV was spotted speeding on I-75.
Christian missionaries from Canada, the Edwardses, lived in Turkey for a long time before moving to Florida in 2019. They ran a charity with a high-minded mission to spread Christian love in doctrine and service to the poor.
By the fall of 2020, the family of four was suspected of pulling off a multimillion-dollar fraud that targeted the government's Covid relief program for small businesses and nonprofits.
According to a federal forfeiture complaint, Josh made a false claim that his ministry had 486 employees and a monthly payroll of more than $2 million.
Red flags were raised by the federal investigation. The accountant who signed off on the loan was said to have dementia and hadn't worked for the organization in a year.
The car was pulled over by three Florida Highway Patrol cars. Four people were inside the vehicle.
According to the complaint, Evan Edwards told the officers that they were going to a conference in Texas, but he couldn't give any details.
The 2020 Mercedes was searched by federal agents. This wasn't a typical road trip.
He had a laser printer on his lap. Two garbage bags full of shredded documents were found next to his wife and daughter in a rear passenger seat.
The family stuffed their electronic devices into a bag that blocks radio frequencies so they wouldn't be tracked.
There were suitcases full of financial records, two other Faraday bags with laptops and tablets inside, a document shredder, and multiple backpacks with external hard drives.
A 49-page research manual published by the Bureau of Justice is one of the electronic documents found in the search.
The U.S. government's rush to distribute aid money during the Pandemic created a bonanza for fraudsters. The Paycheck Protection Program has resulted in the prosecution of more than 180 people.
After the government claimed that the money was from bank fraud and money-laundering offenses, a federal judge in Florida ordered the forfeiture of the money.
More than 18 months have passed since the traffic stop in Florida and no one has been charged with a crime.
Even though other suspected Covid-relief fraudsters have been accused of stealing less money, they have still been charged with criminal offenses.
The Vermont man was arrested and charged after he fraudulently obtained $55,000 in loans. A man from Georgia was sentenced to three years in prison after he was found guilty of fraud.
Alex Little, a former federal prosecutor who now practices law in Nashville, Tennessee, said that an $8 million fraud case would be a good one to bring. They haven't been indicted.
The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida did not respond to the email.
Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, the Secret Service can't give any more information at this time.
TheEdwards family did not respond to emails or messages sent through social media and no one answered the door at their home.
The scam and its unraveling shocked their neighbors.
Alan Heringa said they don't know what Evan has been up to.
We would like to hear the whole story. It's completely out of character for a man of God.
A neighbor said it was more bluntly.
The neighbor spoke about what he had heard in the news about the case.
The man stole money during the epidemic. In the name of God, he took it. That makes you the ugliest person on the planet.
One of the boys in the family that wasn't religious was the man now known as EvanEdwards.
He changed his name after being harassed in Turkey because of his proselytizing.
In his late teens or early 20s, he was introduced to a church by his girlfriend. His father stopped giving him money because he was giving all of it to the church.
Mary Jane is a Filipina immigrant. After the birth of their children, a couple moved to Turkey.
EvanEdwards said in a 2008 radio interview that they wanted to preach the gospel where it wasn't preached.
He founded the ASLAN International Ministry, which he said was named after the Turkish word for lion.
More than half a million copies of the New Testament were distributed in Turkey. He said that he became a target of local authorities.
He told The Christian Post that he had been arrested and harassed by the police and military in Turkey.
He said that he was attacked on the street and beaten up. I've hid in the most unusual of places. The government closed my book distribution company and I had to report it to the police.
A person who was once associated with ASLAN International would later tell investigators that the pastor changed his name to EvanEdwards because he was banned from Turkey and wanted to return under a different name.
The family moved back to Canada a decade ago and Evan continued to preach.
He did everything for the church.
In October of last year, he purchased a three-bedroom home in Florida for $332,500. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the family traveled from Canada to Florida.
A new community centered around an 18-hole golf course and a country club was where theEdwards home was located. There is a human made pond on the property.
The Edwardses had a small car when they first arrived. They moved to the Mercedes. The inside of the house appeared relatively spare and they filled their garage with top-of-the-line exercise equipment.
He was asked if he was running a business out of there. The man said he was running a ministry.
The US economy was crippled by the coronaviruses. According to a federal complaint, JoshEdwards applied for a $6 million Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover payroll, rent and utilities for his family's ministry.
Josh was told by First Home Bank that he could get more money than he had requested.
The money was deposited into an account that had a balance of $25 in May 2020. It was deposited into multiple bank accounts under the names of family members.
According to the complaint, the perpetrators of the fraud tried to hide the source, nature and location of the bank fraud proceeds by moving them through multiple bank accounts.
Smith is the president of the evangelical Christian watchdog ministry watch. The bank would have known there was nothing there if you did a couple of searches on the name.
The president of First Home Bank said in a statement that the documentation submitted by ASLAN met the requirements of the paycheck protection program.
Two months after the money arrived in the ASLAN accounts, theEdwards family tried to buy a home in a new Disney World development called Golden Oaks. There was only one person on the contract.
The deal didn't go through. The authorities seized the money that was set aside for the down payment on the house.
The federal investigation gained steam in September.
The complaint says that ASLAN International's office in Florida was visited by agents and they found no employees there. The donation links were inactive and sections of text were lifted from other religious sites according to the complaint.
A review of the documents shows that the ministry had reported its monthly income to the Canadian government as just $5,500.
Walter Gnida, the ministry's accountant, was tracked down by Canadian authorities after the U.S. requested that they do so. The complaint says that Gnida was silent and unresponsive as his son told investigators that his father and Evan had known each other for a long time.
The son of Gnida didn't reply to the request for comment.
No one answered the door when federal agents showed up at the house. The complaint says that Evan and Josh stopped by some of their neighbors homes to ask if two men had come to ask them questions.
Yes, the answer was given. According to the complaint, the men wanted to know who lived at the house.
A swarm of federal agents descended on the home nine days after they obtained a search warrant. There were no vehicles or people at the home.
Roughly 150 miles away, the family's car was stopped. The vehicle was pulled over by Florida officers after the Secret Service contacted them.
Four members of the family were arrested. They were arrested at the Canadian border.
According to a criminal complaint, the family submitted visa forms for them to work in the U.S. on behalf of Gnida, the dementia- stricken accountant. Authorities said that an interview with Gnida's son suggested that his mother's signature was forged.
The charges were dropped the next day after the customs officer noticed that he had missed something. The customs officer said in an affidavit that Gnida's son said his father could have signed the documents even if he didn't remember.
The family was released from custody after the traffic stop.
In December 2020, the details of the stop came to light in court records that were made public. The $8 million in loans were seized and all of them were recovered by the justice department.
A search of public court records shows that the federal government has not taken any action against theEdwards.
The former federal prosecutor said that the sequence of events was extremely rare and unusual.
He said he didn't understand why the government would go to such lengths to stop and detain the family.
He said that it raises a number of questions.
After a traffic stop, the house was boarded up and empty. Evan and his son have been living at the house since they came back. His wife and daughter aren't known.
One neighbor said that they just reappeared.
That's what you do, you do that. The person gets caught. There are no consequences.
The family's fame made for an awkward dynamic on the block, according to the neighbor.
What do you tell them, how are you? He asked if he could steal any millions.
The case did not affect the family's religious beliefs.
They caught the attention of a ministry watchdog after they received an email from Edward's Family Ministries boasting of 948 salvations so far.
According to The Roys Report, the email contained a link to a video titled Texas that featured 18 minutes of footage showing EvanEdwards praying over people in a drive-through.
EvanEdwards did not appear to have been hiding from the authorities.
According to local records, in June of 2021, he met with a notarial public in Volusia County to transfer his home into his name.
The ASlan International website is no longer active, but the ministry's state records are up to date.
Some people on the block refer to the family as the swindlers.
One person who lives nearby is in favor of putting them in prison. It is sad to see that scam artists take money that is meant for people who need it.
In the wake of the incident, multiple neighbors said thatEdwards didn't seem sad or defeated. His faith seemed to have not been affected.
He said that divine intervention helped the family navigate their legal issues. He said that God saved them.