Florida State Rep. Joe Harding Indicted on Federal Wire Fraud and Money Laundering Charges
Tallahassee - Thursday December 8, 2022: The Florida lawmaker who sponsored a controversial state law that limits classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity has been indicted on charges of defrauding a federal pandemic loan program for small businesses.
The U.S. Justice Department Wednesday announced that Florida Republican State Representative Joe Harding has been indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements.
Federal Prosecutors accuse Harding of illegally obtaining, or trying to obtain, more than $150,000 from the Small Business Administration in pandemic aid loans.
The Indictment alleges that Harding made, and caused to be made, false and fraudulent SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications, and made false representations in supporting loan documentation, in the names of dormant business entities, submitted to the SBA. The Indictment further alleges that Harding obtained fraudulently created bank statements for one of the dormant business entities which were used as supporting documentation for one of his fraudulent EIDL loan applications.
Harding was arrested, pleaded not guilty, and then released on bond. He has lost his Florida House committee assignments for the upcoming legislative term.
In a posting on his Facebook page, Harding said he pleaded not guilty, adding - "I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested."
The 35 year old Harding introduced Florida HB 1557 calling it 'The Parental Rights in Education' bill. Critics dubbed it the Don't Say Gay' bill. Governor DeSantis signed it into law on July 1 this year. The law prohibits "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity ... in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate" for students in higher grades.
The myfloridahouse.gov website lists Harding's occupation as "Home Healthcare Executive." The floridahousegop.com website describes Harding as "a serial entrepreneur" who has started "several businesses focused on boarding and training horses, real estate development, home construction, and landscaping."
Harding represents Florida House District 24 in north central Florida which encompasses parts of Marion County south of Ocala and north of The Villages. He won election to the state house in November 2020, his first elected term of office.
Harding's trial is scheduled for Wednesday, January 11, 2023, at 8:30 a.m., at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville, Florida, before the Honorable United States District Judge Allen Winsor.
The maximum terms of imprisonment for the offenses are as follows:
* 20 years: Wire Fraud
* 10 years: Money Laundering
* 5 years: Making False Statements