Author of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Charged With Defrauding Pandemic Loan Program

A federal grand jury has indicted Florida state Rep. Joseph B. Harding (R), 35, for allegedly trying to illicitly obtain more than $150,000 in federal pandemic relief funds. Harding is best known as the ‘brainchild’ behind Florida’s pro-discrimination law, the Parental Rights in Education Law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Law, last year.

The DoJ alleges:

…that between December 1, 2020, and March 1, 2021, Harding committed two acts of wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and for obtaining coronavirus-related small business loans by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and for the purpose of executing such scheme, caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce. 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. By this conduct, the indictment alleges that Harding fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain more than $150,000 in funds from the SBA to which he was not entitled.  Harding is also charged with two counts of engaging in monetary transactions with funds derived from unlawful activity related to his transfer of the fraudulently obtained EIDL proceeds into two bank accounts, and two counts of making false statements to the SBA.

Trial for Harding 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
-Florida State Representative Indicted For Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, And Making False Statements

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