Joe Harding to spend 4 months in federal prison
Joe Harding's abrupt exit means the House is scrambling to fill his committee assignments.

He'll serve two years of probation after he's done with hard time.

Former state Rep. Joe Harding will spend four months in prison and another two years of probation.

A judge ordered the sentence nearly seven months after the Williston Republican pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and lying to investigators. Prosecutors sought charges in connection to Harding seeking COVID-19 relief dollars for businesses no longer operating.

U.S. Attorney Jason Coody announced the sentence.

“The theft of any amount of taxpayer funds is inexcusable,” Coody said. “However, the defendant’s deceptive acts of diverting emergency financial assistance from small businesses during the pandemic is simply beyond the pale.

“Today’s sentence both punishes the defendant’s criminal conduct and should serve as a significant deterrent to others who would selfishly steal from their fellow citizens to unlawfully enrich themselves. With our law enforcement partners, we remain committed to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in acts of COVID-19 related fraud.”

Prosecutors say Harding secured $150,000 in federal relief funds from the Small Business Administration. Bank records showed he immediately transferred money from an Economic Injury Disaster Loan to personal accounts and a credit card.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor sentenced Harding to four months in federal prison for each of these criminal counts, and the former lawmaker will be allowed to serve those sentences concurrently.

Harding must surrender to authorities no later than noon on Jan. 24.

Once he completes his prison sentence, Harding will remain on probation for another two years.

Harding has 14 days to appeal the sentence if he chooses.

He faced up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors advised some leniency after the disgraced lawmaker admitted guilt and cooperated with investigators.

Still, investigators said it was important to show fraud was unacceptable, especially for elected officials who enjoy the public’s trust.

“Today, Mr. Harding was held accountable for swindling money out of COVID-19 relief programs created to help small businesses, including Mr. Harding’s own constituents, recover from the economic hardships of the pandemic,” said Special Agent in Charge Kyle A. Myles of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General.

“The FDIC OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice anyone who steals from such programs and threatens to undermine the integrity of our Nation’s financial institutions.”

Harding during his time in the Florida House developed national notoriety for sponsoring a parental rights bill derided as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Dr. Franklin Waters

    October 19, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    Four months? Should be four years, minimum.
    Corruption in government deserves harsh penalties.

    • Kathryn Goodell

      October 20, 2023 at 9:55 am

      So totally agree. These are major and deliberate crimes and involve a very large sum of money. Why only 4 months? This is ridiculous where those in the state of Florida with political ties get off with a “slap on the hand.”

      • rick whitaker

        October 22, 2023 at 6:41 pm

        blame desantis

  • Larry Gillis, Libertarian (Cape Coral)

    October 20, 2023 at 1:27 am

    Aren’t there some “Sentencing Guidelines” applicable here, so that this particular order of the court could be seen in its true perspective? In all honesty, four months doesn’t sound like much, not for the offenses that are “on offer” here.

    I mean, the guy’s a thief, non?

  • Michael K

    October 20, 2023 at 9:47 am

    Forgot to mention that Harding is the author of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Another liar and crook.

  • Steven r Magee

    October 22, 2023 at 2:10 pm

    Why are politicians given a free ticket when normal citizens pay the maximum price.

  • rick whitaker

    October 22, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    four months of sucking the _icks of gang members will straighten him out. the don’t say gay bill will draw perverts to him like an ass magnet. being a legislator should have made him get more time, not less.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn