‘Don’t Say You’re Gay’ Rep. Pleads Guilty of COVID Relief Scam


GAINSVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida lawmaker who sponsored a controversial legal critic’s call for “Don’t Say Gay” accused Tuesday of committing $150,000 in a COVID-19 relief scam. pleaded guilty.

Republican Joseph Harding, 35, pleaded guilty in Gainesville federal court to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and false statements related to the COVID-19 relief scam, according to court records. He faces up to 35 years in prison at his hearing scheduled for July 25.

Harding resigned from the Florida legislature in December, a day after federal prosecutors announced his indictment.

According to court documents, Harding made false statements to the Small Business Administration when applying for an economic injury disaster loan for one of his dormant entities. After winning $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, prosecutors said Harding made three of his financial transactions, each using more than $10,000 in fraudulently obtained funds: transfer to a joint bank account, payment to a credit card, transfer to a bank account. Third Party Entities.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is designed to provide financial relief to small businesses experiencing temporary loss of revenue.

Harding rose to national prominence last year for sponsoring a law banning sexual orientation and gender identity education for kindergarten through third grade, as well as material deemed age-appropriate. .