Republican lawmaker Joe Harding indicted on wire fraud, money laundering charges
The feds slam Joe Harding just days before a Special Session. Joe Harding image via AP.

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The indictment alleges Harding fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain more than $150K.

A federal grand jury indicted Republican Rep. Joe Harding on six felony counts, including money laundering and wire fraud, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The indictment alleges that between Dec. 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021, Harding committed two acts of wire fraud through a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and by obtaining COVID-19-related small business loans through false and fraudulent pretenses.

It alleges Harding made fraudulent applications for Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans, including by utilizing the names of dormant businesses. It also alleges Harding obtained fraudulently created bank statements for one of the dormant businesses, used as supporting documentation for one of the loan applications.

“By this conduct, the indictment alleges that Harding fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain more than $150,000 in funds from the SBA to which he was not entitled,” a U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a press release.

“Harding is also charged with two counts of engaging in monetary transactions with funds derived from unlawful activity related to his transfer of the fraudulently obtained (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) proceeds into two bank accounts, and two counts of making false statements to the SBA.”

In a late Wednesday statement, Harding, who represents House District 24, said he’s fighting the charges.

“Today, I pleaded not guilty to federal charges that state I improperly obtained and used an EIDL loan issued by the Small Business Administration. I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested,” Harding said.

“On advice from counsel, I will be unable to say anything more specific about the legal proceedings until a later date and refer any questions or concerns related to this matter to my attorney. I ask that you keep me and my family in your prayers as we work for a fair and just resolution. Thank you, and my God bless you.”

A trial for Harding is set for Jan. 11, 2023 at 8:30 a.m. at the U.S. Courthouse in Gainesville. United States District Judge Allen Winsor will preside.

If convicted, Harding faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud, up to 10 years for money laundering and up to 5 years for making false statements.

According to Gary Fineout of POLITICO, Harding has already been released on bond, and the government did not look to detain Harding.

The indictment, the DOJ notes, is not evidence of guilt, which will be determined at trial. But Harding has already lost his committee assignments for the upcoming legislative term.

“After consultation with Representative Harding regarding his indictment, I am temporarily removing him from his committee assignments to allow him time to focus on this matter,” Speaker Paul Renner said Wednesday in a written statement.

“In America we adhere to the rule of law, and as such, Representative Harding is presumed innocent and will have the opportunity to plead his case before a court. Since the indictment does not relate to any aspect of his legislative duties, any further questions should be directed to his legal counsel.”

The Governor cannot remove a lawmaker from office, even if arrested. The Florida Constitution states that “each house shall be the sole judge of the qualifications” of members. To expel a lawmaker, each chamber needs a two-thirds majority vote.

The indictment comes after a joint investigation from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of Inspector General and the SBA Office of Inspector General.

Assistant United States Attorneys David Byron and Justin Keen are prosecuting the case.

Harding was first elected to the House in 2020 and subsequently re-elected this year, representing a portion of Marion County.

The Republican lawmaker is best known for sponsoring House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education legislation which critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The Republican-led Legislature passed the bill this year and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it. It took effect July 1.

“Those are serious allegations of corruption,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said in reaction to the indictment. “The courts will sort through that sordid mess but we know he’s made many false statements about the LGBTQ community. Florida parents are forced to navigate schools that are less safe for their children because Joe Harding’s political ambitions know no bounds.”

Harding’s indictment follows a September guilty plea from his brother-in-law, Patrick Walsh. As reported by Fresh Take Florida, Walsh pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges connected to his receipt of nearly $8 million in disaster relief loans.

Walsh, an international blimp magnate, had used the money on a series of land buys, including the purchase of a private island in the Gulf of Mexico near Yankeetown. He is scheduled to be sentenced at the end of January.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


43 comments

  • Iknow Whatsup

    December 7, 2022 at 5:22 pm

    so the US government can’t account for $8 trillion, Dementia Joe tried to give away billions in illegal loans , 2/3 of the covid money was grifted but douchebag DemoMorons pretend this is a “lot of corruption”…3 letters FTX….criminal, commie, tyrannical scum.

    • Fletch Corwin

      December 7, 2022 at 5:30 pm

      None of what you said is real – and you have been indoctrinated into a cult called “Republicans”. Get out while you can, and get on the team working for human progress.

      • Part of the "Republican" cult

        December 7, 2022 at 10:14 pm

        lol get off your high horse creep the reason joe and others were able to commit fraud was because of the dems handing out free money to all

      • Kbworkman

        December 7, 2022 at 11:54 pm

        Since you don’t like Republicans I suspect you are a Democrat.
        If by human progress you mean killing little boys and girls… NO THANKS.
        I pray you see the light before your judgment.
        Praying for you.

      • MICHAEL MCCARTHY

        December 8, 2022 at 1:45 am

        This is the team of Fauci who lied to us for years. The team that rioted in the streets for two years? The team of forced lockdowns, forced masking, forced vaccinations? The team of the demented president? The team of men in girl’s bathrooms? The team of changing the sex of underage children without their parents’ permission. The team of killing babies? This is human progress? No thank you. The Republicans have problems but nothing like the Leftist Communists. Human progress my ass.

        • Concerned

          December 8, 2022 at 8:01 am

          Nobody forced anyone to get a vaccination, liar. This isn’t China or Russia, although idiot Trump supporters want that. They don’t want a leader chosen thru elections but lies. They believe dumbass Trump’s lies over facts and court cases he lost. You are either woefully stupid or a liar. Which is it?

        • Vendicar Decarian

          December 8, 2022 at 8:43 am

          No one was forced to get vaccinated.

          But many carriers of the disease were correctly isolated so they could not kill their neighbors.

          Many Republicans decided to murder their neighbors anyhow.

          • EB

            December 8, 2022 at 1:40 pm

            With a virus that has a 99.7% survival rate. Give me a break. I wish you had this fervor for murder victims, rape victims, drunk driving deaths, cancer deaths, homeless vets, obesity, and the list goes on.
            You keep talking about Trump 2 years after he’s gone from office. It’s amazing the dumbing down of this country.

    • Fred

      December 7, 2022 at 5:35 pm

      The Trump administration authorized covid relief funds if memory serves…

      • MICHAEL MCCARTHY

        December 8, 2022 at 1:47 am

        But he didn’t force anything on anyone after the 2 weeks to flatten the curve from Fauci.

        • Vendicar Decarian

          December 8, 2022 at 8:45 am

          You poor baby, you were required to wear a mask to prevent killing your neighbors.

          We all feel your pain. We really do. You are a victim of being forced to not kill your neighbor.

          You poor boy. We all cry for you.

    • Joe Corsin

      December 7, 2022 at 5:45 pm

      You need court ordered medication and inpatient psychiatric treatment before you hurt yourself or someone else. You’ll see the inside of a jail cell with your unhinged mentality. I hope sooner than later.

      • Pedo Pete

        December 7, 2022 at 8:48 pm

        Typical liberal kindness on display wishing fellow citizens to be deprived of their liberty merely for wrongthink.

        • Vendicar Decarian

          December 8, 2022 at 8:47 am

          Ya, mass murderers always whine about their right to murder their neighbors being violated by those horrible, horrible police.

          It’s a crime. In America we have the absolute right to spread deadly disease around the country.

          It’s in the constitution.

    • Anita

      December 7, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      You’re full of baloney.

    • Vendicar Decarian

      December 8, 2022 at 8:41 am

      How long have you been living on fantasy island?

  • jnobfan

    December 7, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Why spread false information? The Bill does not say “Don’t Say Gay”

    • AuldGuy

      December 7, 2022 at 9:25 pm

      You are exactly right. The bill prohibited activist, family-hating “teachers” from discussing inappropriate sexual topics with K- 3 students. That’s 5-8 year olds. Too bad a law is needed for common sense and decency and…privacy! Isn’t it up to the parent to decide when topic of that nature are right for their child?
      The pedophiles and groomers don’t think so. Why is this even political? Don’t most democrats care about their kids? Of course they do! Excluding the ones who take their kids to drag queen story hour, of course.

      • Joe Corsin

        December 8, 2022 at 8:14 am

        No discussion is inappropriate. You see how fascist you people are? And you apes talk about vaccines? What’s next for the “freedom” cult? Seatbelts are tyrannical? This is why you cooks need court ordered medication.

        • Vendicar Decarian

          December 8, 2022 at 8:49 am

          Of course seat belts are tyrannical.
          So is requiring drivers to follow the rules of the road.

          Just ask any Libertarian.

    • Kbworkman

      December 7, 2022 at 11:56 pm

      Since you don’t like Republicans I suspect you are a Democrat.
      If by human progress you mean killing little boys and girls… NO THANKS.
      I pray you see the light before your judgment.
      Praying for you.

      • Elliott Offen

        December 8, 2022 at 10:49 am

        😭 Babies are dying! People are starving and riding horses to work! Fentanyl Halloween candy!! Vote for Orange Hitler!!!😭

  • jnobfan

    December 7, 2022 at 5:31 pm

    The Bill did NOT say Don’t say Gay never did

    • Isaac

      December 7, 2022 at 7:25 pm

      The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT does not say Obamacare either, but what do we call the ACA???

  • Elliott Offen

    December 7, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Another Republican crook bites the dust. First Trump flopped, then red wave was a red flop, now 2024 will be the next RED FLOP! Republicans refuse to lead. Many of their constituents are now neo nazis, Christian fascists, and anti-government terrorists. They will continue to pay.

    • Reed Thompson

      December 7, 2022 at 7:12 pm

      We took the house, apparatchik…

      • Truth Will Out

        December 7, 2022 at 8:05 pm

        Your tool ass party got rolled. That was the third worst showing by the opposition party in at least a hundred years. Your tiny little majority in the House will be able to continue to block all the things the public counts on from Congress for two more years, but you dipshits won’t be pushing ANYTHING on your wish list.

        • MICHAEL MCCARTHY

          December 8, 2022 at 1:49 am

          Admittedly, Trump dragged the Republicans down. But we have elections every two years and by then the true ramifications of Biden’s policies will be apparent. And Trump will be gone.

          • Elliott Offen

            December 8, 2022 at 8:18 am

            The Dems govern and the empty suit GOP obstructs and sabotages government. While the billionaires yank every dollar that they can out of everyone and hoard it forever, I’d expect people to at least vote for those who govern. God knows the GOP motto is now “Freedom for the rich and freedom t-shirts for everyone else.”

          • Mark

            December 8, 2022 at 8:43 am

            Let’s hope so.

  • Prince Myshkin

    December 7, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    To call the law “Don’t Say Gay” is wrong. It’s about protecting innocent children from being groomed with inappropriate books and lessons about sexual lifestyles. Leave the children alone liberal creeps!

    • Phil Morton

      December 7, 2022 at 7:14 pm

      So “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Got it!

      • Field Marshall Flanders

        December 7, 2022 at 7:34 pm

        Groomer!

        • Joe Corsin

          December 8, 2022 at 10:51 am

          You were groomed by an ape. Apes have more sense. Don’t vote. You’re incompetent.

  • Mikey

    December 7, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    Just another Republican grifter trying to destroy Florida.

    • MICHAEL MCCARTHY

      December 8, 2022 at 1:50 am

      Florida seems to be doing better than any other state. LOL. You’re living in la la land.

      • Glenn Dexter

        December 8, 2022 at 7:05 am

        With the help of the Federal Government to the tune of over $2 billion and counting to recover from Florida’s last 2 hurricanes which so many might call a handout from the gov’t you hate so much.

      • Elliott Offen

        December 8, 2022 at 8:22 am

        Florida isn’t doing better than any other state. It’s a grifter state propped up by everyone else in the nations money. If it weren’t for people retiring here over the last 40 years then it would be like Mississippi with a beach. There is no government in Florida besides police and no state taxes. No state like this outpaces others. It’s just not possible without grifting.

      • Mark

        December 8, 2022 at 8:44 am

        You clearly don’t live here

  • Roscoe P. Coltraine

    December 8, 2022 at 9:58 am

    You’d think lying and committing fraud to get ahold of money (no matter how freely given and by whom) would be that low bar we could agree on. You’d think.

  • Anony1020

    December 8, 2022 at 11:15 am

    Look at these other comments. Republicans refuse to accept responsibility for their own action.

  • Sam Smith

    December 8, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    Let’s call it what it is, It’s Florida State’s ”Anti-Grooming Bill” not “Don’t say Gay”.
    So what do you think when a company that was built on family values supports a pro grooming law? Department of Justice information on child exploitation describes grooming as a process that “fosters a false sense of trust and authority over a child in order to desensitize or break down a child’s resistance to sexual abuse.”
    POLL: 67% SAY DISNEY WRONG TO OPPOSE FLORIDA’S ‘ANTI-GROOMING’ SEX-ED BILL.

    • Joe Corsin

      December 8, 2022 at 5:43 pm

      Trump 40,000 lies over four years culminating in the big lie. Why don’t you put Trump as your profile picture?

Comments are closed.


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