Florida state representative Joe Harding (R), who sponsored legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is facing up to 35 years in prison after being indicted on charges of wire fraud, money laundering and other crimes, authorities said Wednesday.
Harding, a Republican whose district is south of Gainesville, was indicted on six counts of wire fraud by illegally obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in Covid-relief funds, money laundering, making false statements and other crimes, NBC News reported citing a release by the U.S. attorney’s office for Northern Florida.
Joseph Harding, 35, was indicted on six counts of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements and other crimes, the U.S. attorney’s office for Northern Florida said in a release.
The 35-year-old legislator is accused of seeking Covid-relief loans from the Small Business Administration in 2020 for two companies, Vak Shack Inc. and Harding Farms, according to the indictment.
According to the indictment, Harding lied in the SBA application, claiming that the companies had half a dozen employees and gross revenues from the previous year totaling more than $800,000.
However, prosecutors allege that the companies had no employees, and state records showed they had been dormant in the months before the applications were filed.
Harding could face 20 years in prison for the fraud charges, 10 years for money laundering, and five years for making false statements, the release says.
Harding pleaded not guilty to the charges in court Wednesday. His trial is scheduled to begin on January 11, according to court documents.