'Don't Say Gay' Florida lawmaker sentenced to federal prison for fraud, other crimes

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Florida lawmaker sentenced to federal prison for fraud, other crimes

(As originally published, Fri, October 20th 2023, 6:52 PM EDT)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (TND) — Former Florida state Rep. Joseph Harding has been sentenced to 4 months in federal prison for wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in connection with a COVID-19 relief fraud.

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

The feds said Harding, 36, participated in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration and got a COVID-related loan through fraud.

Harding also used the name of one of his dormant businesses to get an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, getting $150,000 in COVID relief money “to which he was not entitled.”

'Don't Say Gay' Florida lawmaker sentenced to federal prison for fraud, other crimes
FILE – Florida state Rep. Joe Harding listens during a Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in a legislative session on Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

He used that money to make three transactions of more than $10,000: to his bank account, to his credit card, and to a third-party business.

Harding will serve two years of supervised release when he gets out of prison.

The Republican resigned his seat in the state legislature — where he represented part of north-central Florida — in December, after he was indicted.

Harding became nationally known for sponsoring “Parental Rights in Education” which became law last year. It forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, as well as material that is not deemed age appropriate.

Critics of the controversial law gave it the “Don’t Say Gay” name.

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