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Former Florida lawmaker who sponsored ‘Don’t Say Gay’ sentenced to prison for COVID-19 relief fraud

by Gabriel Martinez
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Florida lawmaker sentenced

The former Florida legislator who championed the controversial legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law has been sentenced to six months in federal prison for engaging in fraudulent activities related to a federal COVID-19 relief loan program intended for small businesses.

Joe Harding, a 36-year-old Republican who previously served as a state representative in Florida, resigned from his position in December after facing charges of fraudulently securing over $150,000 in pandemic assistance loans from the Small Business Administration. In March, he pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with the fraudulent acquisition of COVID-19 relief funds.

U.S. Attorney Jason Coody, in a press release, stated, “The misappropriation of taxpayer funds, regardless of the amount, is indefensible. However, the defendant’s deceptive actions, diverting crucial emergency financial aid from struggling small businesses during the pandemic, are particularly egregious.”

According to court records, Harding provided false information to the Small Business Administration during the application process for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for one of his dormant business entities. Subsequently, after obtaining $150,000 in relief funds, prosecutors alleged that Harding conducted three financial transactions, each involving more than $10,000 in fraudulently obtained funds: transferring funds to his joint bank account, making a payment to his credit card, and transferring money into the bank account of a third-party business entity.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program was established to offer economic assistance to small businesses facing temporary revenue losses due to the pandemic.

Harding gained national attention in the previous year due to his sponsorship of legislation that prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, as well as materials that are not considered age-appropriate.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Florida lawmaker sentenced

What was the former Florida lawmaker sentenced for?

The former Florida lawmaker, Joe Harding, was sentenced to six months in federal prison for defrauding a federal COVID-19 relief loan program for small businesses.

What charges did Joe Harding plead guilty to?

Joe Harding pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with COVID-19 relief fraud.

How much money did Joe Harding fraudulently obtain from the Small Business Administration?

Joe Harding fraudulently obtained more than $150,000 in pandemic aid loans from the Small Business Administration.

What was the purpose of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program?

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program was designed to provide economic relief to small businesses that were experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the “Don’t Say Gay” law associated with Joe Harding?

Joe Harding became nationally known for sponsoring the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as well as materials that are not deemed age-appropriate.

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