Miami, Dec. 7 Florida Republican Congressman Joseph Harding, author of a controversial law that prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary school classrooms, has been charged with wire fraud, money laundering and false statements, collective offenses that could imply more than 30 years in prison, the United States Department of Justice reported on Wednesday.
In a statement, the District Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said Harding, 35, “fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain” more than $150,000 in funds intended for small and medium-sized businesses “to which he was not entitled.”
A federal grand jury returned the six-count indictment against Harding, from the city of Williston, located in Levy County, Florida, on the state’s northwestern coast.
The indictment alleges that between December 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021, Harding “committed two acts of wire fraud” by participating in a coronavirus-related small business loan scheme “through representations and promises false and fraudulent”.
Specifically, these are “false and fraudulent requests” to the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, activated during the pandemic to alleviate damage to small and medium-sized businesses.
Harding is also charged with two counts of engaging in “money transactions with funds derived from illegal activities related to his transfer of fraudulently obtained EIDL proceeds to two bank accounts,” as well as two counts of making false statements to the Administration. of Small Businesses (SBA).
The indictment, announced Wednesday by Jason R. Coody, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, indicates that the maximum prison terms for the related crimes include 20 years for wire fraud, 10 for money laundering and 5 for making statements false.
Harding was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2020 and is the author of the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law, signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on March 28.
Officially named “Parental Rights in Education,” the law prevents teachers from addressing gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten and the first two grades and empowers parents to file lawsuits against the district. school and receive compensation for damages if they consider that there have been infractions.
Harding’s trial is scheduled for January 11 in a Gainesville court (north Florida) before federal district judge Allen Winsor, the statement advanced. EFE