70.6 F
Saturday, May 27, 2023

Former state Rep. Joe Harding pleads guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud charges

Joseph Harding, the former state representative from Ocala and Marion County who introduced the controversial Parental Rights and Education bill, pleaded guilty this week to fraudulently obtaining $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.

On Tuesday, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida announced that Harding has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with COVID-19 relief fraud.

State Rep. from Ocala Marion County indicted by federal grand jury
Former state representative Joseph Harding, 35, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements

Harding was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 7, 2022, and he resigned from his House District 24 seat the following day.

According to court documents, Harding devised a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) by obtaining coronavirus-related small business loans through materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. While executing this scheme, he caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce.

Harding also made a false and fraudulent SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) application, in the name of one of his dormant business entities, that he submitted to the SBA. As a result, Harding fraudulently obtained $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds from the SBA.

After obtaining the EIDL proceeds, Harding proceeded to conduct three monetary transactions that each involved over $10,000 in fraudulently obtained funds. These transactions included a transfer to his joint bank account, a payment to his credit card, and a transfer into a bank account of a third-party business entity.

Harding faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge, 10 years for money laundering, and 5 years for making false statements.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, July 25 at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville.