June 18, 2024

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Florida pastor accused of Covid fraud a no-show in court due to ‘grave medical concerns’

Florida pastor accused of Covid fraud a no-show in court due to ‘grave medical concerns’

A Florida pastor accused of fraudulently getting $8 million in Covid reduction cash is in declining health and fitness and appears to be unable to talk, his lawyer mentioned immediately after he unsuccessful to appear in court.

“There are grave medical issues,” Erin Hyde informed a federal decide in Orlando on Wednesday, in accordance to a transcript of the hearing obtained by NBC Information. 

Evan Edwards, 64, and his son Josh, 30, were being arrested at their New Smyrna Seaside residence before in the working day. They each and every experience up to 30 decades in prison if convicted on the prime depend of conspiracy to dedicate bank fraud.

What was meant to be their to start with court docket visual appeal went sideways quickly.

Evan Edwards was a no-demonstrate right after he informed officers he had healthcare concerns and refused to get in his wheelchair in a court keeping mobile, Assistant U.S. Legal professional Kara Wick explained to the judge. 

That prompted U.S. Magistrate Choose David Baker to inquire his law firm no matter whether she experienced gotten the opportunity to converse to him.

“I have tried to, Your Honor,” Hyde explained, according to the transcript. “Mr. Edwards appears to be nonverbal. I will not know that he understood everything that I stated.”

Hyde extra: “I didn’t get any responses from him. If he stated a word or two, they ended up not phrases in a complete sentence or that ended up pertinent to what I was speaking about.”

Baker requested that Evan Edwards be held and evaluated by a medical doctor. 

Points took a stranger switch when the judge turned his consideration to Josh Edwards, who did show up in the courtroom.

Josh Edwards is taken into custody outside the Edwards family’s New Smyrna Beach home.
Josh Edwards is taken into custody outdoors the Edwards family’s New Smyrna Seashore household on Wednesday.Obtained by NBC News

His law firm, Charles E. Taylor Jr., explained he experienced difficulty communicating with his shopper, who suggested that he had a diverse law firm. Taylor told the choose he reached out to that legal professional but that the legal professional said he did not symbolize Josh Edwards.

“So the most I could get out of him was he desired to converse with his lawyer, which he did not have, and his mother and sister, who are at this time in the courtroom,” Taylor reported.

“Your Honor, this is the 1st time that I have experienced this materialize. I do believe there is a competency challenge in this circumstance.”

The decide proceeded to inquire Josh Edwards a few inquiries — Can you listen to me? Are you in discomfort? Do you have an understanding of where you are? — and every single elicited no reaction at all.

The judge then declared that he would be ordering a psychiatric evaluation, which prompted the prosecutor to chime in.

“I have no objection to that, Your Honor,” Hyde claimed. “I would take note for the report, on the other hand, that the agents interacted with Mr. Josh Edwards this early morning, and he was talking and responding to them just great.”

If Josh Edwards were being pretending to be mentally incapacitated, it wouldn’t be the initially time a person accused of a criminal offense had feigned mental well being troubles. In probably the most popular scenario, mobster Vincent “The Chin” Gigante delayed his racketeering trial for decades by performing mad — a go that garnered him a 2nd nickname, “Oddfather.”

Reputed crime boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante is escorted to a waiting car on his way to attend court in his federal racketeering trial in New York in 1997.
Reputed criminal offense boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante is escorted to a ready car or truck on his way to his federal racketeering demo in New York in 1997.Jon Levy / AFP by way of Getty Photographs

The 13-moment listening to finished with Evan Edwards’ attorney telling the choose there were being grave problems close to his wellness.

The attorneys for Evan and Josh Edwards didn’t answer to requests for remark. 

The father and son have been taken into custody five months following an NBC News report elevated concerns around why they hadn’t been billed in the alleged scam, which federal prosecutors initial outlined in court docket papers in December 2020. 

The situation facilities on a Paycheck Protection Program personal loan software Josh Edwards filed in April 2020. The software mentioned the family’s spiritual organization, ASLAN Global Ministry, had 486 staff and a every month payroll of $2.7 million.

ASLAN acquired an $8.4 million financial loan as the pandemic was raging. But federal prosecutors say the promises in the application ended up bogus. 

Evan and Josh Edwards understood that ASLAN’s actual quantity of staff members and real every month payroll costs ended up “significantly decrease, or fully nonexistent,” according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The two gentlemen, who are originally from Canada, were being strike with a whole of 6 expenses, such as conspiracy to dedicate financial institution fraud and visa fraud. 

The arrests weren’t their 1st operate-in with regulation enforcement.

Evan and Josh Edwards
Pastor Evan Edwards and his son Josh.by using Facebook

In September 2020, federal agents confirmed up at the Edwardses’ property to execute a search warrant, but no a single was there, and the location had been “cleared out,” according to a civil forfeiture complaint.

Afterwards that working day, Florida police officers pulled around the family’s Mercedes SUV as they had been heading north on a highway in Central Florida, about 150 miles from their home, according to a police report. 

Federal brokers arrived and observed a number of suspicious things in the motor vehicle, which Josh Edwards was driving. 

Evan Edwards, seated in the front passenger seat, had a laser printer on his lap. In a rear passenger seat, following to his spouse and daughter, were two apparent rubbish luggage comprehensive of shredded files, in accordance to the civil forfeiture grievance. 

The family’s own electronic products ended up stuffed into a so-named Faraday bag, which blocks radio frequencies to continue to keep from getting tracked.

There have been also suitcases whole of financial records, two other Faraday baggage with laptops and tablets within, a document shredder and a number of backpacks made up of exterior tough drives and USB drives, the grievance says. 

All 4 members of the loved ones have been taken into custody. They ended up billed with filing fraudulent immigration files at the Canadian border they have been produced the future day right after the expenses ended up dropped.

Six months afterwards, in April 2021, a federal choose in Florida requested the forfeiture of the $8.4 million the Edwards spouse and children experienced received soon after the govt claimed that it was the proceeds from lender fraud and dollars laundering offenses. The Edwards household did not problem the seizure.

They experienced tried to use the funds to acquire a $3.7 million, 4,700-square-foot property in a new Disney Globe development called Golden Oaks, according to prosecutors. 

But the offer in no way went through. The authorities seized the $868,000 that experienced been set aside for the down payment.