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The federal government says the pastor and his family stole $ 8 million from taxpayers in a Covid fraud. Why weren't they charged?

Florida federal agents said Rev. Evan Edwards and his family when the Mercedes SUV was discovered for speeding at I-75 north of Gainesville. I was trying to ask a question. 

Edwards was a Canadian Christian missionary who lived in Turkey for many years and emigrated to Florida in 2019. On paper, they ran a faith-based charity and had a high mission of "communication with Christians." Love for doctrine and service to the poor.

But by the fall of 2020, a family of four — Dad Evan. Mama Mary Jane; daughter Joy, 36; son Josh, 30, — is suspected of quitting millions of dollars of fraud targeting the government's Covid bailout program for small businesses and nonprofits. was. 

According to federal confiscation complaints, Josh falsely claims that his ministry, the ASLAN International Ministry, has 486 employees and a monthly salary of $ 2.7 million. After submitting the paperwork, Edwards received over $ 8 million. 

A federal investigation has signaled a serious danger. Among them, an accountant who allegedly approved the loan suffered from dementia and had not done anything for the organization since 2017.

By the way, right after 8:49 pm. On September 17, 2020, Edwards' beige Mercedes was being pulled by three Florida highway patrol cars. The whole family of four was in the car.

Evan Edwards told executives that he was heading to a meeting in Texas, but he was unable to provide details, according to complaints. 

A federal agent has arrived at the scene and has begun a search for Mercedes in 2020. What they found showed that this was not a typical road trip. 

Edwards, sitting in the passenger seat, had a laser printer on his lap. According to the complaint, in the backseat next to his wife and his daughter, there were two transparent trash bags full of shredded documents. 

Complaints say family personal devices are packed in so-called Faraday bags, blocking radio frequencies from being tracked. 

According to the complaint, a suitcase full of financial records, two other Faraday bags with a laptop and tablet, a document shredder, multiple backpacks including an external hard drive and a USB drive. There was also a pack. 

"Other electronic documents found in the search include a 49-page research manual issued by the Justice Department in connection with" Tracking the Flow of Funds Through Financial Institutions. " "I will," said a federal complaint.

The U.S. government's hasty distribution of aid during a pandemic has createdjackpots for domestic and foreign fraudstersSince 2020, the Justice Department has provided salary protection A program (PPP) that has charged more than 177 people for fraud. 

A federal judge in Florida finally ordered the confiscation of $ 8 million received by the Edwards family after the government claimed income from bank fraud and money laundering crimes. rice field.

However, more than 18 months after Florida's traffic stopped, authorities have not yet charged members of the Edwards family with the crime. 

This omission is especially noticeable given that other suspected Covid rescue scammers have been charged with criminal accusations despite being accused of stealing much less money. It's interesting.

For example, a Vermont man was arrested and prosecuted (sentenced for two years of probation) after fraudulently obtaining $ 55,000on aloan. A Georgian man was sentenced toimprisonmentafter being convicted of fraudulently submitting $ 2.6 million in a paycheck protection program loan. 

"The $ 8 million PPP scam is what you want to bring in, and I think you want to bring it in right away."Alex Little, now former Federal prosecutor Nashville, Tennessee, said the law referred to Edwards' case. "I don't know why they weren't charged."

A spokesperson for the US law firm in central Florida told NBC News that they declined to comment on the office. I sent it by email.

Roy Dotson, National Pandemic Fraud Recovery Coordinator for the US Secret Services, who led the investigation, said: "This is an ongoing investigation and no secret service is available. Please provide additional information related to this case at this time." 

Edwards Family Did not respond to emails or messages sent via social media, and no one answered the door to their home in Newsmana Beach, Florida. 

The scam and its unraveling surprised neighbors and members of the Evan Edwards extended family. 

"I don't know what he's doing," said his cousin Alan Heringa. He said he last talked to Evan in 2017. 

"We are interested in listening to the complete story. Perhaps it is completely out of the character of the Man of God."

One neighbor said: I said more frankly. 

"This guy needs to be in jail," said a neighbor who spoke about what he read in the news about the incident. He spoke on condition of anonymity to maintain privacy.

"He stole money during a pandemic. He stole it in the name of God. It makes you the worst turmoil on the surface of the earth."

A turbulent era in Turkey

The man, now known as Evan Edwards, grew up in Edmonton, one of three boys in a non-religious family. .. His cousin. 

He was born as Ian Heringa, but changed his name after a turbulent era in Turkey where his conversion targeted him for harassment.  

His dedication to Christianity began in his late teens or early twenties when his girlfriend introduced him to a church in the area. His cousin said it didn't take long for Edwards' father to stop sending money to him because "he had given everything to the church." 

Edwards married a Filipino immigrant, Mary Jane. The couple moved to Turkey, a predominantly Islamic country, in the late 1980s after having two children. 

"We wanted to preach the gospel where it wasn't preached," Evan Edwards said in a 2008 radio interview. rice field. 

Joy Edwards, Evan and Mary Jane Edwards, and Josh Edwards.
Joy Edwards, Evan and Mary Jane Edwards, Josh Edwards.Via Facebook

He worked with the Christian mission group Operation Mobilization and later founded the ASLAN International Ministry. .. 

Edwards claims that his organization has distributed more than 500,000 copies of the New Testament in Turkey. In the process, he said he was the target of the local government.

"I have been arrested and harassed by Turkish police and the military more than 50 times," he said in an interview with the Christian Post in 2012{153. }  

"I was attacked and beaten on the street," he added. "I jumped over the fence, slipped out of the side door and hid in the most unusual place. The opposition came in the form of having to shut down my book distributor to the government and report it to the police.

A former member of ASLAN International later changed the name of the minister to Evan Edwards because he was expelled from Turkey and wanted to return to Japan with a new identity at a later date. I told you. .. 

The family returned to Canada about 10 years ago, and Evan Edwards continued to preach, his cousin said.

"Everything he did was for the church," added his cousin Alan Heringa.

In October 2018, Edwards purchased a three-bedroom home in Newsmana Beach, Florida for $ 332,500. According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the family flew from Edmonton to Orlando on June 29, 2019. 

Edwards's home was in a new community centered around an 18-hole golf course and country club. The property is backed up in an artificial pond.  

When they first arrived at New Marna Beach, Edwards had a modest sedan. But they soon upgraded to Mercedes. According to neighbors, the house seemed relatively generous, but they also filled the garage with the finest exercise equipment. 

"I asked him," Do you run a business from there? " The neighbor remembered. "He said,'No, I run a ministry.'"

Then the coronavirus struck the US economy and crippled it. According to federal complaints, in April 2020, Josh Edwards applied for a $ 6 million salary protection program loan to cover salaries, rents, and utilities for his family's ministries.