Florida representative Joe Harding, who is known for his controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was indicted on six counts of fraud for allegedly obtaining and misusing $150,000 in COVID relief funds, RadarOnline.com has learned.
Rep. Harding, 35, was accused of misusing funds obtained from two applications to the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
The program was intended to provide economic relief to small businesses that risked closure and layoffs due to severe financial loss brought by the impact of the pandemic.
In total, Harding was charged with six counts of fraud that included alleged money laundering and wire fraud, according to the Department of Justice’s statement on his indictment.
“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,” the DOJ stated in a press release.
Harding is accused of applying for COVID financial assistance through The Vak Shack, a vacuum sealer company, as well as a cattle farm under the name Harding LLC.
Both companies had been inactive since 2017 — three years prior to the pandemic that prompted the formation of the relief program.
According to the indictment, Harding allegedly applied for the program during the time period of December 2020 to March 2021.
Additionally, Harding was accused of falsifying other documented requested in the application.
Harding allegedly falsified bank statements — and other supporting financial documents — that were requested on the application to secure tens of thousands of dollars.
Harding denied the allegations of multiple counts of fraud against him and claimed that he already repaid the financial relief that he received from his accepted applications.
Harding faces 20 years for alleged wire fraud, 10 years for alleged money laundering, and 5 years for allegedly making false statements.
Harding was elected to represent Florida’s 24th District in the state’s House of Representatives in 2020. During Harding’s brief two-year stint, the lawmaker introduced Bill 1557 — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Along with Gov. DeSantis, Harding won his reelection in the November 2022 midterms.
Harding’s trial for his indictment is scheduled for January 11 at 8:30 AM at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville, Florida.