A fascinating report by Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel details the incident from the fake PPP loan filing to the epic shredded-paper finale. With the launch of the CARES Act, millions of dollars in loans have been issued to small businesses (like the former owners of the Morocco Pavilion at EPCOT) and non-profits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those that filed was ASLAN International Ministry, headed by Evan and Joshua Edwards. ASLAN ended up receiving $8.4 million in loans after painting a picture of a successful Orlando-based ministry.
Once received, the money was then wired into an account at First Home Bank—one which previously only held a balance of $25. It was then divvied up amongst multiple bank accounts held by various members of the Edwards family. Records show that $3.71 million went towards a house in the Symphony Grove neighborhood of Disney’s Golden Oak.
What ultimately tipped off the authorities was a cover letter from an accountant filed alongside ASLAN’s IRS forms. The cover letter not only listed the same address for the accounting firm as ASLAN, but was also signed by a mute man with dementia who hadn’t done accounting for ASLAN since 2017. The address for ASLAN headquarters turned out to be empty office space.
The Edwards family was ultimately caught speeding on I-75 near Lake City, Florida. Inside the car were bags of shredded documents, as well as a paper shredder and laser printer.
According to the Sentinel, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida declined comment based on the fact that they cannot confirm or deny investigations until criminal charges are filed. The federal government has since seized the $8.4 million PPP loan funds on the basis of bank fraud and money laundering.