A federal grand jury has indicted Republican State Representative Joseph Harding of Florida for wire fraud, money laundering and misrepresentation, according to the US Department of Justice.
Mr Harding, who gained national attention this year as the main sponsor of what opponents have called the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, is accused of defrauding the Small Business Administration for illegally obtain federal loans related to Covid-19.
The federal indictment alleges that Mr. Harding fraudulently applied for federal disaster loans using the names of inactive businesses, then created fake bank statements for an inactive business as supporting documents for a loan application. fraudulent. The crimes were allegedly committed between December 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021.
Federal prosecutors allege that Mr. Harding “fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain more than $150,000 in funds … to which he was not entitled.”
Mr Harding was first elected in 2020 and was re-elected this year.
Earlier this year, he ushered in the ‘Parental Rights in Education’ Bill, which broadly prohibits ‘classroom teaching’ on issues related to ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’. gender” from kindergarten to grade three or “in a way that is not age-appropriate. or developmentally appropriate in accordance with state standards” in other grades.
The measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, has drawn widespread criticism in Florida and elsewhere, with opponents arguing that the law’s broad scope could effectively block discussion of LGBT+ people, l history and events of the public schools, and being armed against the students. , staff and their families under threat of potential lawsuits against school districts for perceived violations.
Mr. Harding’s trial is scheduled for January 11, 2023.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud, 10 years for money laundering and five years for misrepresentation.
The Justice Department stressed that the indictment is only an allegation by a grand jury and not evidence of guilt.
Florida House Speaker Paul Renner said in a statement that Mr Harding had been “temporarily” removed from the committee “to allow him time to focus on this matter”.
“In America, we adhere to the rule of law, and as such Representative Harding is presumed innocent and will be given the opportunity to plead his case in court,” he added.
A warrant for Mr Harding’s arrest was issued on December 6, according to court documents reviewed by The Independent. He was released on bail.
The Independent Gt