The Florida lawmaker behind the state’s infamous “don’t say gay” bill now faces charges of wire fraud and money laundering.The U.S.
Attorney’s Office in North Florida on Monday released a six-count indictment against Florida Rep. Joseph Harding.U.S. Attorney Jason Coody, an appointee of Attorney General Merrick Garland, announced charges against Harding.
Federal prosecutors allege Harding committed two acts of wire fraud in an effort to defraud the Small Business Administration when he obtained small business loans related to the coronavirus pandemic under false pretenses.The Williston, Fla., lawmaker earned national notoriety as the author of the so-called “parental rights in education” law.The legislation bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation completely in kindergarten through third grade, and restricts educators from teaching about the subjects “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Harding maintained the bill will not completely prohibit discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools, but will empower parents to determine the values instilled in their children.The indictment, reported first by Florida Politics, appears unrelated to Harding’s political activity.Prosecutors say he lied in SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications and made false representations in documents using the names of dormant businesses.
An indictment asserts Harding went so far as to create fake bank statements for one dormant business to use as a supporting document in an EIDL application.Prosecutors say Harding wrongly obtained or attempted to receive more than $150,000 from the SBA.He also faces two charges related to transferring the unlawfully.