Florida legislator indicted on fraud charges for COVID loans

Florida legislator indicted on fraud charges for COVID loans

Florida state Rep. Joe Harding listens through a Community Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee listening to in a legislative session on Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Harding has been indicted on fees he defrauded a personal loan system offered by the federal authorities to enable modest corporations for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, officials reported Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.


State Rep. Joe Harding, a Republican from North Florida, was indicted Wednesday on rates of funds laundering and wire fraud following a federal grand jury claimed he falsely claimed two inactive firms of his experienced staff in order to get coronavirus-similar financial loans.

The federal indictment accuses Harding, R-Ocala, of scheming to defraud the Little Small business Administration in get to get Financial Injury Disaster Loans, expressing he attained or attempted to obtain far more than $150,000 “to which he was not entitled,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Workplace for the Northern District of Florida.

Harding in a statement reported he pleaded not guilty to the federal costs and wishes “the general public and my constituents to know that I thoroughly repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as asked for.”

He additional that “on guidance from counsel, I will be unable to say just about anything much more precise about the lawful proceedings” until eventually later and asked for prayers as he and his relatives “work for a honest and just resolution.”

Dwelling Speaker Paul Renner stated he is “temporarily” removing Harding from his committee assignments “to allow for him time to concentrate on this matter.” Harding was to provide as the vice chair of the Wellness & Human Products and services committee and the vice chair of the PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee.

“In America we adhere to the rule of regulation, and as these, Representative Harding is presumed innocent and will have the option to plead his case in advance of a court docket,” Renner explained in a assertion. “Since the indictment does not relate to any element of his legislative duties, any additional queries must be directed to his legal counsel.”

According to the indictment, in December 2020, Harding submitted mortgage applications for his enterprises The Vak Shak Inc. and Harding Farms LLC, falsely symbolizing the amount of workers for the corporations and falsely professing the corporations had been lively in 2019 and 2020.

In his bank loan application, Harding mentioned The Vak Shak experienced gross profits of far more than $400,000 prior to the get started of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and that the enterprise experienced 4 staff members. In actuality, the business experienced been dormant from 2017 to 2020, had no gross earnings and experienced no workforce, according to the indictment.

For Harding Farms, Harding mentioned the enterprise experienced gross profits of about $400,000 and had two employees. In truth, the business was dormant from 2017 to 2020, had no revenue and experienced no personnel, according to the indictment.

Harding involved “fraudulently created” lender statements for Harding Farms to guidance his application, according to the indictment.

About the exact same time he submitted the bank loan application, Harding reinstated the businesses with Florida’s Office of Point out Division of Organizations to make it seem the businesses had been lively, according to the report.

Harding has been in office environment considering that 2020. He drew countrywide consideration previously this 12 months when he released Home Invoice 1557, which supporters call the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, but opponents refer to as the “don’t say gay” bill.

The legislation prohibits classroom instruction and discussions about sexual orientation and gender id in grades K by means of 3 — but lessons for more mature grades can be impacted, too, if they are discussed in ways that are not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law in March, following the proposal grew to become a countrywide lightning rod and sparked criticism from LGBTQ organizations and Disney, a single of the state’s premier companies and a major corporate political donor.

The greatest sentence for wire fraud is 20 years, whilst the most sentence for income laundering is 10 a long time and the sentence is five many years for earning bogus statements. Harding’s demo is established for Jan. 11.

Herald/Occasions Tallahassee Bureau team writer Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.

This story was originally released December 7, 2022 6:23 PM.