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Florida State Representative accused of lying to get pandemic relief money

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida State Representative Joseph Harding has been indicted on six counts of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Harding, 35, was accused of making fraudulent applications and fake bank statements to obtain over $150,000 in pandemic relief for two “dormant” businesses between December 1, 2020, and March 1, 2021.

Court documents allege Harding’s two businesses – The Vak Shack and Harding Farms, LLC – had no employees or revenue in 2019. On applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), Harding reportedly claimed The Vak Shack had over $420,000 in revenue in 2019, while Harding Farms had gross revenue of $392,000.

Harding was also accused of opening Chase Bank accounts for the businesses on or around the day he submitted the loan application. He was charged with two counts of engaging in monetary transactions with EIDL funds and two counts of making false statements to the Small Business Administration.

The State Attorney’s Office said the investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Office of Inspector General, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General. 

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Harding’s trial is scheduled for January 11, 2023, at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville.

Speaker Paul Renner said Harding has been temporarily stripped of his committee assignments “to allow him time to focus on this manner.”

Harding represents part of Marion County. He was one of the sponsors of HB-1577, aka the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Source: WFLA

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