A pastor and his son in the US state of Florida have been arrested for allegedly fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in federal Covid relief funds.
Originally from Canada, Evan and Joshua Edwards were taken into custody on Wednesday following allegations they used Covid relief funds to buy a multimillion-dollar house near Walt Disney World, among other luxury expenses, as reported by NBC News.
Pastor Evan, his wife and their adult children are Christian missionaries who lead ASLAN International Ministry. Before settling in Florida, the family had been doing missionary work in Turkey.
Federal prosecutors believe the Edwards family submitted a fraudulent loan application to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a scheme launched during the pandemic to help small businesses.
According to a federal complaint released by the Department of Justice, pastor Josh applied for the loan in 2020 arguing their ministry had 486 employees and a monthly payroll of $2.7m.
Funds were transferred into family bank accounts “in an attempt to hide and conceal their whereabouts”, the complaint read.
Following orders from a judge, the family returned the $8.4 million paycheck in its entirety in April 2021.
The pastor and his son are facing six charges, including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and visa fraud.