A federal grand jury charged Republican Florida state Rep. Joseph Harding over allegations of defrauding the Small Business Association (SBA).
Harding is charged with two acts of wire fraud for attempting to obtain $150,000 in loans for coronavirus relief for dormant businesses, according to a statement from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Federal Grand Jury Indicts Republican Florida State Representative Joseph Harding https://t.co/wqpAQhrk9q
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) December 8, 2022
"The Indictment 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 statement read.
"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," it added.
The 35yo Republican Florida lawmaker who authored the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill was just indicted for Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, And Making False Statements. He’s accused of Covid aid fraud. He’s pleaded not guilty. He faces 35 years in prison if convicted. https://t.co/Nyva335X0w pic.twitter.com/ffjvtrF5il
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) December 8, 2022
"Today, I pleaded not guilty to federal charges that state I improperly obtained and used an EIDL loan issued by the Small Business Administration. I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested," Harding said in a Facebook post.
Harding is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 11. The charges, if convicted, include a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison.
NEW: Florida State Representative Joseph Harding, the Republican who introduced the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, has been criminally indicted by the Justice Department for wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. pic.twitter.com/SQITQydsJc
— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) December 7, 2022
Democrats have quickly capitalized on the news, as Harding drew "national attention for introducing Florida’s notorious “Don't Say Gay” bill, which prohibits K-3 classrooms from discussing gender identity or the history or existence of the LGBTQ community."
Harding is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 11, 2023. If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison.
The lawmaker also recently deleted his Twitter account as the criminal activities were reported, leading to fierce criticism online.
Harding's situation looks bleak, but the accusations have yet to be heard in court, where the legal process will seek to determine the truth of the case.
The news is a blemish on Florida's otherwise strong red wave in the recent elections that stood out nationwide in the recent midterms.