Florida lawmaker indicted, accused of fraud on virus loan

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. Harding has been indicted for defrauding a loan program offered by the federal government to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida state Rep. Joe Harding has been indicted on charges of defrauding a federal loan program intended to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors said Harding, 35, illegally obtained or tried to obtain more than $150,000 from the Small Business Administration in pandemic aid loans. He is being charged with two counts of wire fraud, two counts of false statements and two counts of illegal monetary transactions.

Harding, a Republican, became nationally know this year over his sponsorship of a law that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as well as material that is not deemed age-appropriate. Critics called it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Harding did not immediately return an emailed request for comment. It is unclear if he has hired a lawyer.

A trial is scheduled for Jan. 11.

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