A federal grand jury charged a Republican Florida state representative Wednesday over allegations that he defrauded the Small Business Administration (SBA) out of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief loans.
Joseph Harding participated in a scheme to defraud the SBA with two acts of wire fraud, obtaining and attempting to obtain loans totaling over $150,000 meant for coronavirus relief by listing dormant business entities on his loan applications, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice. The indictment also alleges that Harding created false bank statements and lied on supporting loan documentation.
His name is Joseph Harding. His twitter account appears to be deactivated. Prosecutors say he illegally obtained or tried to obtain more than $150,000 from the Small Business Administration in pandemic aid loans. Read more: https://t.co/SHsloHmqWW pic.twitter.com/Mmp0cWd5TK
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) December 8, 2022
The federal grand jury slapped Harding with a six-count indictment, including wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements, the release reads. (RELATED: Judge Hands Out Punishment For Woman Who Stole $357,000 From PPP Program)
Harding responded to the charges Wednesday via a Facebook post, stating, “Today, I pleaded not guilty to federal charges that state I improperly obtained and used an EIDL loan issued by the Small Business Administration. I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested.” An Economic Injury Disaster Loan is an initiative within a program launched during the pandemic to try to help small businesses struggling with changing rules and less patronage.
Harding went on to ask his constituents to keep him and his family in their prayers as he and his legal team worked towards a “fair and just resolution.”
Harding is set to go before U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor on Jan. 11, 2023. If convicted, Harding could serve a maximum penalty of 35 years.