GOP Sponsor Of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Indicted On Fraud Charges

A Republican lawmaker in Florida who sponsored the state’s controversial laws often called the “Don’t Say Gay” invoice was indicted Wednesday on prices of defrauding the federal government of coronavirus aid loans.

Federal prosecutors allege state Rep. Joe Harding illegally obtained or tried to obtain more than $150,000 in federal loans meant for small companies through the COVID-19 pandemic. Harding, who was elected in 2020, was charged with utilizing two dormant company entities to use for the funds, filling out fraudulent purposes.

In his application, prosecutors mentioned Harding claimed certainly one of his companies had greater than $400,000 in income and 4 workers within the months previous to the pandemic. The company has truly been dormant for 3 years, with no income or no workers.

The indictment additionally alleges Harding created false financial institution statements to assist his purposes.

He faces six counts, together with wire fraud, making false statements and money laundering. Harding has pleaded not responsible and was launched on bond earlier than a scheduled trial on Jan. 11.

“I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested,” he told The Associated Press in a press release.

Harding sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay” invoice earlier this year, which sparked nationwide outrage earlier than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the invoice into regulation in March. The laws successfully forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identification in lots of elementary faculty lecture rooms, permitting dad and mom to sue faculty districts with a purpose to implement it.

Civil rights teams have roundly criticized the regulation as homophobic, discriminatory and hateful. Research has already proven a surge in anti-LGBTQ hate for the reason that regulation handed.

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