Joe Harding was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2020, representing the 24th District in Southeast Florida. He may be known from the news in January of 2022 as the one who introduced the Parental Rights in Education Act which bans discussions of LGBTQ+ topics from public school classrooms. But his biggest claim to fame will be as the Florida state lawmaker who committed COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program fraud.
Former Republican Florida state representative Joe Harding was initially indicted for wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with COVID-19 relief fraud in December 2022. Specifically, Harding received more than $150,000 in pandemic relief funds that were intended to keep small businesses afloat, submitting numerous loan applications for “dormant” businesses. Then he used the fraudulent funds to pay off his credit card bill and transfer money to a bank account in his name. Although Harding initially claimed that he was not guilty, he pleaded guilty in March, 2022, with prosecutors dropping three of the charges in a plea deal. Not the first time a politician has stolen from the U.S. taxpayers. Definitely won’t be the last.
In a public statement at the time, he said: “I deeply regret my actions that led to these charges. I let down my family, my constituents, and those who have supported me over the years. I have only myself to blame.” Former Rep. Joe Harding resigned from the state legislature in December, 2022, one day after the federal indictment against him was unsealed.
On October 18, 2023, Joseph Harding, 36, of Williston, Florida, was sentenced to 4 months in federal prison for wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with COVID-19 relief fraud.
Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Lawmaker Who Sponsored Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Sentenced to Four Months in Federal Prison for Loan Fraud” published by People Magazine on October 20, 2023.
A former Florida lawmaker who sponsored the state’s divisive “Don’t Say Gay” bill — later signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis — has been sentenced to four months in federal prison for fraud associated with a COVID-19 loan, as well as two years of supervised release following his prison sentence.
Former Rep. Joe Harding pleaded guilty in March to one count each of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain a $150,000 federal COVID relief loan.