Let’s say I walk into a department store in San Diego, where I live, and shoplift a $10 lipstick.
And I’m caught.
Here’s what can happen to me if I’m convicted:
For a misdemeanor act of shoplifting – which this is, because the value of what I stole is under $950 – the penalty may be six months in a county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both a fine and jail time.
That’s the law.
It doesn’t matter if I think the law is stupid.
It doesn’t matter if I tell the security guard who apprehended me that I’ll give the lipstick back.
It doesn’t matter if I tell the judge I’m really, REALLY sorry.
A fine, jail time, or both.
That’s the law.
Now instead of shoplifting a $10 lipstick…
Let’s say I steal more than $8 million taxpayer dollars in a COVID scam, like these people did, as recounted in this December 2020 article:
“The federal government has seized $8.4 million in pandemic-related loans obtained by a family running a fake ministry in Orlando who then tried to spend some of the money on a $3.71 million house in Disney World’s Golden Oak neighborhood, according to court records.”
The family was dad Evan Edwards; mom Mary Jane; daughter Joy, 36; and son Josh, 30:
The name of their fake ministry: ASLAN International Ministry, which doesn’t appear to have a website, but was getting attention on the Ministry Watch website in December 2020.
Ministry Watch is an independent evangelical Christian organization whose purpose is to review Protestant ministries for financial accountability and transparency, and to provide independent advice to Protestants considering making donations to them:
“A so-called international ministry based in Florida who didn’t appear to do anything ministry-related allegedly obtained millions by defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, federal authorities say.
“CNBC reports that U.S. Secret Service agents seized more than $7.5 million from accounts at Bank of America and another $868,000 from First American Trust from ASLAN International Ministry. The information came from a civil forfeiture complaint filed in U.S District Court in Orlando, FL.”
So, this sounds like a story with a happy ending – not for the Edwards family, but for taxpayers.
The family had gotten $8.4 million in pandemic-related loans under false pretenses and now the government had taken it back.
How did the Edwards family get the $8.4 million? According to the Orlando Sentinel article:
“It began after Joshua Edwards, a vice president of ASLAN International Ministry, applied for $6.91 million for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, or PPP, according to a federal complaint signed Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Andrejko.”
Remember the Paycheck Protection Program?
It became a law on April 24, 2020, and its purpose was to help businesses, self-employed workers, sole proprietors, nonprofit organizations, and tribal businesses continue paying their workers and survive the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
That was April 24, 2020, and I’m betting Josh Edward started filling out the fraudulent application same day.
As this April 2022 article put it:
“The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to be a lifeline to small businesses during some of the darkest months of the pandemic – $800 billion distributed from April 2020 to May 2021. And as we now know, some $80 billion of those taxpayer dollars ended up in the wrong hands or misspent.”
“…submitted documents that painted a picture of a successful Orlando-based ministry that employed 486 people on a monthly $2.76 million payroll and had revenue of more than $51 million in 2019. He submitted IRS forms and a cover letter from an accountant that showed summaries of ASLAN’s bank accounts.”
The Edwards family waited, but not for long – in 2020, the government was in a hurry to get the money to people, and people were anxious to get it.
The big day came: First Home Bank notified Josh Edwards that ASLAN International was eligible to receive more money than he had asked for: a total of $8.4 million.
Josh applied for $6.91 million and we taxpayers gave him almost $1.5 million more than requested.
But wait, you’re thinking.
This all happened back in 2020. The story has a happy ending. The government got our tax dollars back, and the Edwards are all rotting away in prison, right?
The Edwards fraud story was resurrected in this July 1, 2022 NBC article:
The article goes into great detail about the family’s fraud, up to September 17, 2020 when the Edwards family, in their Mercedes, was pulled over by three Florida Highway Patrol cars.
Then we get to the point:
“…more than 18 months after the Florida traffic stop, authorities have yet to charge any member of the Edwards family with a crime.”
The NBC article says,
“The Edwards did not challenge the seizure of the $8 million in loans, all of which was recovered by the Justice Department.”
“The federal government has taken no action against the Edwards since then, according to a search of public court records.”
Let’s go back to the April 2022 NPR article I cited above. This was an interview with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, who said:
“We actually have now had over 1,200 indictments in total in our investigative work – about 900 arrests and almost 500 convictions.”
And those arrests and convictions make headlines, like this one from March 2022:
William Sadler (pictured) fraudulently got a measly $1.7 million in Paycheck Protection Program money. He “pleaded guilty to federal fraud and money laundering charges,” and was facing “a maximum sentence of 82 years in federal prison.”
And the Edwards family…
No dressed in an orange jumpsuit, facing a judge in a courtroom…
Here’s the $8.4 million-dollar question:
Actually, I have two whys.
Why aren’t all four Edwards in prison?
And why did NBC reporters revive this story more than 18 months after it happened, when there is nothing new to report?
There is no new development making headlines anywhere else that I could find. The few current stories I did see, like this one…
…were all just a rehash of the NBC July 1, 2022 story.
I contacted the three NBC reporters and ask, but haven’t heard back from them.
Heaven forbid that an NBC news reporter should respond to an NBC news consumer.
I did find items of interest in a link in the NBC article that went to this 2021 article:
It sems the Edwards family had reappeared in Canada, both in person:
And online – this is dated September 12, 2021:
The Roys Report article says:
“…previous contributors to ASLAN International have received an email purporting to be from ‘Edwards Family Ministries’ with little text besides the subject line: ‘948 salvations so far! It’s been a year of Harvest in 5781! Happy New Head of the Year 5782 – PTL!’”
The email included links to the YouTube videos (above) depicting members of the Edwards family asking for money. The videos were “quickly taken down,” according to NBC.
The Roys Report goes on to say:
“Edwards Family Ministries’ address at the end of the email matches the one for Aslan International Association in Alberta, Canada.”
Here’s what that looks like:
“And while the Edwards aren’t listed anywhere for the Canadian organization, their Florida nonprofit uses the Canadian organization’s information as their own.”
Here’s where the Florida nonprofit link takes us:
And on this page is a link to an “Annual Report” dated 4/28/22:
The document is signed by “Joshua Evans.”
The Roys Report closed with this:
“News 6 in Orlando reported last year that the family was being investigated by the Edmonton (Alberta) Police Service in addition to the U.S. Secret Service.”
It appears the Edwards family – in 2020 – was being investigated by Canadian police as well as by the U.S. government.
But when NBC contacted U.S. authorities for its July 1, 2022 article, all they got was this:
“A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida emailed NBC News that the office declined to comment.
“Roy Dotson, the national pandemic fraud recovery coordinator for the U.S. Secret Service, which led the investigation, said, ‘Due to the fact that this is an ongoing investigation, the Secret Service cannot provide any additional information related to this case at this time.’”
In summary: From September 2020 when the Edwards family was pulled over in Florida – in their Mercedes – to now is 21 months.
The Edwards family’s Aslan International Association in Alberta, Canada is still in operation, now blessing – and bilking – unsuspecting Canadians.
They’re still filing annual reports as Aslan International Ministry, Inc.
Law enforcement in the U.S., and possibly in Canada, are still investigating.
No one is still being arrested.
Evan Edwards’ book is still available on Amazon:
And we’re all still wondering…