Florida lawmaker behind ‘Do not Say You are Homosexual’ legislation pleads responsible to COVID fraud: NPR
Phelan M. Ebenhak/AP
A former Florida MP who sponsored a invoice criticized because the “Do not Speak About Homosexual” legislation has pleaded responsible to fraudulently acquiring COVID-19 aid funds.
Joseph Harding on Tuesday pleaded responsible in federal court docket to V Northern District of Florida every with one depend of wire fraud, one depend of cash laundering, and one depend of perjury, in response to court docket information.
Harding faces as much as 35 years in jail, together with as much as 20 years on fees of wire fraud. A sentencing listening to is scheduled for July 25 on the federal courthouse in Gainesville.
The previous Republican lawmaker rose to prominence final yr as one of many sponsors of a controversial Florida legislation banning dialogue of sexuality and gender in public faculty lecture rooms from kindergarten via third grade.
This legislation turned the mannequin for related legal guidelines in additional than a dozen different conservative states.
“This invoice is about defending our youngsters, empowering mother and father, and offering them with the data they should do their God-given job of elevating a baby,” Harding stated when Governor Ron DeSantis signed the invoice into legislation final March.
Critics from Democrats to LGBTQ teams known as it the “Do not Say Homosexual” legislation and denounced Republicans for making scary speeches in faculties.
In December, a federal grand jury returned an indictment in opposition to the 35-year-old Harding. who was accused of mendacity in his functions for an financial injury mortgage program that supplied loans to companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic. A day later, he resigned from the Florida Home of Representatives.
Prosecutors stated Harding fraudulently obtained greater than $150,000 from the Small Enterprise Administration, a part of which he wired to a financial institution and used to pay by bank card.
In his biography on the Florida Home Republican web site, Harding is described as a “serial entrepreneur” who began a number of companies associated to “planting and coaching horses, actual property growth, house constructing, and landscaping.”
He was first elected to public workplace when he received a seat within the state Home of Representatives in November 2020.