A federal grand jury issued a six-count indictment to a Florida state representative charged with defrauding the Small Business Administration (SBA) of “thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief loans,” according to the Daily Caller.
The Daily Beast reported that on Wednesday, Florida Rep. Joseph Harding was charged with two counts of wire fraud as well as another four charges of money laundering and making false statements.
The Department of Justice alleges that Harding accumulated approximately $150,000 in fraudulent loans and attempted to obtain more. Reportedly, Harding obtained loans earmarked for coronavirus relief by petitioning for funds in the names of businesses no longer in operation.
The 35-year-old Republican representative was elected to the state’s Congress in 2020. He made national headlines in 2022 for co-sponsoring a bill critics named Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill prohibits K-3 instructors from presenting gender identity lessons to children 4-9 years old.
Harding is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 11, 2023. He will appear before U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor. The representative could serve up to 35 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Harding released a statement on Wednesday via Facebook, writing: “Today, I pleaded not guilty to federal charges that state I improperly obtained and used an EIDL loan issued by the Small Business Administration.”
Harding continued: “I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested.”
Harding concluded his statement by asking his friends and constituents to pray for him and his family and his legal team as they work toward a “fair and just resolution.”
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