HomeNewsLawmaker behind Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law is accused of Covid-relief fraud

Lawmaker behind Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law is accused of Covid-relief fraud

The Florida state lawmaker who sponsored laws dubbed the “Don’t Say Homosexual” invoice by critics was accused of illegally acquiring tens of 1000’s of {dollars} in Covid-relief funds, authorities stated Wednesday.

Joseph Harding, 35, was indicted on six counts of wire fraud, cash laundering, making false statements and different crimes, the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace for the Northern District of Florida stated in a launch.

Harding, a Republican whose district is south of Gainesville, allegedly sought Covid-relief loans from the Small Enterprise Administration in 2020 for 2 corporations, Vak Shack Inc. and Harding Farms, in line with the indictment.

In purposes to the company, Harding allegedly stated the businesses had half a dozen staff and gross revenues from the prior 12 months totaling greater than $800,000 mixed, the indictment says. 

The businesses had no staff and state data confirmed that they had been dormant within the months earlier than the purposes had been filed, the indictment says.

Harding sought greater than $150,000 in loans and obtained roughly $45,000 in January and February of 2021, in line with the indictment.

Harding appeared in court docket Wednesday and pleaded not responsible to the fees, court docket data present. Neither he nor his lawyer instantly responded to requests for remark.

Harding, a house healthcare govt first elected in 2020, is thought for introducing a invoice that prohibited classroom dialogue of sexual orientation or gender id within the state’s major colleges.

The invoice, which Harding stated was aimed toward “empowering dad and mom” and creating boundaries to find out “what is acceptable in our colleges,” was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March and went into impact over the summer season.

Critics blasted the invoice, describing it as an assault on the state’s LGBTQ neighborhood and saying it might open districts as much as lawsuits from dad and mom upset about any LGBTQ-related dialog.

“This invoice goes manner past the textual content on its web page,” former Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat who’s homosexual, stated in February. “It sends a horrible message to our youth that there’s something so unsuitable, so inappropriate, so harmful about this subject that we now have to censor it from classroom instruction.”

Harding’s trial is scheduled to start Jan. 11. He faces 20 years in jail for the fraud expenses, 10 years for cash laundering and 5 years for making false assertion, the discharge says.

Matt Lavietes contributed.

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