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 aid funds is in declining health and fitness and appears to be unable to discuss, his lawyer reported just after he unsuccessful to appear in court docket.

“There are grave health-related concerns,” Erin Hyde advised a federal choose in Orlando on Wednesday, in accordance to a transcript of the hearing acquired by NBC Information. 

Evan Edwards, 64, and his son Josh, 30, had been arrested at their New Smyrna Seaside residence previously in the day. They each and every face up to 30 several years in prison if convicted on the top count of conspiracy to commit lender fraud.

What was meant to be their to start with courtroom look went sideways rapid.

Evan Edwards was a no-show following he informed officers he had health-related challenges and refused to get in his wheelchair in a court keeping mobile, Assistant U.S. Legal professional Kara Wick informed the judge. 

That prompted U.S. Magistrate Choose David Baker to talk to his law firm no matter whether she had gotten the likelihood to talk to him.

“I have tried out to, Your Honor,” Hyde explained, in accordance to the transcript. “Mr. Edwards appears to be nonverbal. I really don’t know that he understood anything that I mentioned.”

Hyde extra: “I didn’t get any responses from him. If he mentioned a term or two, they had been not words and phrases in a complete sentence or that ended up appropriate to what I was conversing about.”

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

Items took a stranger transform when the decide turned his notice to Josh Edwards, who did look in the courtroom.

Josh Edwards is taken into custody outside the Edwards family’s New Smyrna Beach home.
Josh Edwards is taken into custody outside the house the Edwards family’s New Smyrna Seaside dwelling on Wednesday.Received by NBC Information

His lawyer, Charles E. Taylor Jr., explained he experienced trouble communicating with his shopper, who suggested that he had a various law firm. Taylor informed the judge he attained out to that attorney but that the legal professional claimed he didn’t characterize Josh Edwards.

“So the most I could get out of him was he wanted to speak with his legal professional, which he did not have, and his mother and sister, who are currently in the courtroom,” Taylor mentioned.

“Your Honor, this is the initially time that I’ve had this come about. I do believe there is a competency concern in this case.”

The judge proceeded to request Josh Edwards three issues — Can you hear me? Are you in soreness? Do you comprehend where by you are? — and each elicited no response at all.

The judge then introduced that he would be purchasing a psychiatric analysis, which prompted the prosecutor to chime in.

“I have no objection to that, Your Honor,” Hyde mentioned. “I would notice for the history, however, that the brokers interacted with Mr. Josh Edwards this morning, and he was speaking and responding to them just good.”

If Josh Edwards have been pretending to be mentally incapacitated, it would not be the very first time a human being accused of a crime had feigned mental health and fitness challenges. In maybe the most well-known circumstance, mobster Vincent “The Chin” Gigante delayed his racketeering trial for yrs by acting nuts — a transfer that garnered him a next 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 manager Vincent “The Chin” Gigante is escorted to a ready vehicle on his way to his federal racketeering demo in New York in 1997.Jon Levy / AFP via Getty Visuals

The 13-moment hearing finished with Evan Edwards’ lawyer telling the choose there had been grave issues all over his wellness.

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

The father and son were being taken into custody five months right after an NBC News report lifted issues over why they hadn’t been charged in the alleged scam, which federal prosecutors 1st outlined in courtroom papers in December 2020. 

The scenario centers on a Paycheck Defense Software loan application Josh Edwards submitted in April 2020. The application said the family’s spiritual group, ASLAN Global Ministry, experienced 486 workers and a regular payroll of $2.7 million.

ASLAN received an $8.4 million loan as the pandemic was raging. But federal prosecutors say the statements in the software have been bogus. 

Evan and Josh Edwards realized that ASLAN’s actual number of employees and precise regular monthly payroll fees have been “significantly reduced, or completely nonexistent,” according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The two males, who are originally from Canada, have been hit with a complete of 6 rates, like conspiracy to dedicate financial institution fraud and visa fraud. 

The arrests weren’t their very first operate-in with law enforcement.

Evan and Josh Edwards
Pastor Evan Edwards and his son Josh.through Fb

In September 2020, federal agents confirmed up at the Edwardses’ home to execute a lookup warrant, but no a single was there, and the spot experienced been “cleared out,” in accordance to a civil forfeiture grievance.

Later that working day, Florida law enforcement officers pulled around the family’s Mercedes SUV as they ended up heading north on a highway in Central Florida, about 150 miles from their household, according to a police report. 

Federal brokers arrived and located a range of suspicious objects in the car or truck, which Josh Edwards was driving. 

Evan Edwards, seated in the entrance passenger seat, experienced a laser printer on his lap. In a rear passenger seat, subsequent to his wife and daughter, were being two apparent garbage baggage total of shredded documents, in accordance to the civil forfeiture grievance. 

The family’s particular digital gadgets ended up stuffed into a so-named Faraday bag, which blocks radio frequencies to hold from becoming tracked.

There had been also suitcases entire of financial data, two other Faraday baggage with laptops and tablets inside, a document shredder and many backpacks made up of external challenging drives and USB drives, the grievance suggests. 

All four members of the relatives were taken into custody. They have been billed with submitting fraudulent immigration files at the Canadian border they were produced the subsequent day after the prices had been dropped.

Six months later on, in April 2021, a federal judge in Florida purchased the forfeiture of the $8.4 million the Edwards family had acquired right after the government claimed that it was the proceeds from lender fraud and income laundering offenses. The Edwards family members did not challenge the seizure.

They experienced experimented with to use the funds to buy a $3.7 million, 4,700-sq.-foot home in a new Disney Planet enhancement known as Golden Oaks, in accordance to prosecutors. 

But the deal by no means went via. The authorities seized the $868,000 that experienced been set apart for the down payment.