A Florida House Republican was indicted this Wednesday by a grand jury on two counts of wire fraud, along with four other charges of money laundering and making false statements, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
The DOJ says Rep. Joseph Harding defrauded the Small Business Administration by receiving business loans meant for hardship due to the pandemic under false pretenses. Harding allegedly obtained as much as $150,000 and schemed to get more.
As The Daily Beast points out, Harding, 35, introduced Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill (a nickname given to the bill by its opponents), which prohibits inappropriate discussions in the state’s K-3 classrooms about sex or gender.
From the Department of Justice:
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 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.
If convicted, Harding faces up to 35 years in prison.