Church of Fraud

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Pastor Evan Edwards and his son, Josh Edwards, were the dynamic duo that ran ASLAN International Ministry, as president and vice president respectively. In April 2020, Josh allegedly applied for a COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program loan, claiming the religious nonprofit ASLAN had 486 employees and a $2.7 million monthly payroll. What kind of church runs a $2.7 million monthly payroll? A church of fraud does. ASLAN’s actual number of employees and payroll expenses were significantly lower. And although pastor and son asked for $6 million, the ministry was approved for a whopping $8.4 million. Only in the COVID relief plans do you get more than you ask for!

Upon receipt of funds, the Edwards moved the money quickly across various bank accounts linked to members of their family before the rest was used to purchase a $3.7 million 4,700-square-foot house on Orlando’s Symphony Grove Drive, a super elite neighborhood in Disney World.

Shortly after the Edwards received their PPP money, the Secret Service began to suspect that their family ministry was bogus. Questions of fraud were confirmed when they interviewed the accountant, Walter Gnida, who supposedly filed the application. But, Gnida didn’t recall anything. Gnida was diagnosed with dementia and hadn’t done any work for ASLAN since 2017, three years before the PPP loan was available.

When the Secret Service went to the Disney World address, the pastor, son and family were gone. They were eventually caught in their Mercedes SUV, which had bags of shredded paper, financial records, and a few electronic devices that were used to block radio frequencies and prevent tracking.

If the actions of Evan and Josh up until now weren’t enough to question the integrity of their ministry, their behavior at their arrangement will. On December 15th, these fraudsters chose to face the indictment pretending they were physically and mentally incompetent.  Evan was a no-show after he refused to get into his wheelchair to leave his court holding cell. Josh did appear in the courtroom but might as well not have been there. He refused to speak. A judge ordered the pastor and son team to remain in custody pending the completion of medical and psychiatric exams.

Great job by the U.S. Secret Service in this investigation.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article “’ Florida pastor accused of Covid fraud a no-show in court due to ‘grave medical concerns’” published by NBC News on December 16, 2022

“Mr. Edwards appears to be nonverbal,” his lawyer told a judge. “I don’t know that he understood anything that I said.”

A Florida pastor accused of fraudulently obtaining $8 million in Covid relief funds is in declining health and appears to be unable to speak, his lawyer said after he failed to appear in court.

 

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.