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Florida Rep. Joe Harding Indicted On Pandemic Assistance Fraud

According to a grand jury, Harding falsely claimed two of his businesses had employees to qualify for pandemic-related federal loans.

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA — On Wednesday, a federal grand jury indicted state Rep. Joe Harding – a Republican from Ocala – on charges of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements. Harding represents parts of Marion County in northern Florida.

In a statement released Wednesday, Harding wrote that he would plead not guilty and said he wants “the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested.”

“On advice from counsel, I will be unable to say anything more specific about the legal proceedings until a later date,” Harding wrote. But he asked for the public’s prayers as he and his family “work for a fair and just resolution.”


The indictment accuses Harding of falsifying documents and scheming to defraud the SBA to obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loans. As a result, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, Harding received more than $150,000 in loans “to which he was not entitled.”

According to the indictment, Harding submitted loan applications in December 2020 for two businesses that were both inactive. Additionally, the indictment states that he falsely claimed the businesses had employees and gross revenue.

But the companies had no revenue and no employees, according to the grand jury. The report also alleges that Harding “fraudulently created” bank statements to support his loan application.


Newly installed House Speaker Paul Renner said in a statement that he is “temporarily” removing Harding from his committee assignments “to allow him time to focus on this matter.” Harding was chosen to serve as vice-chair of the PreK–12 Appropriations subcommittee and vice-chair of the Health & Human Services committee.

“In America, we adhere to the rule of law, and as such, Representative Harding is presumed innocent and will have the opportunity to plead his case before a court,” Renner wrote in a statement. “Since the indictment does not relate to any aspect of his legislative duties, any further questions should be directed to his legal counsel.”

Harding was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2020. As a co-sponsor of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, Harding drew national attention earlier this year.

If convicted, Harding faces a maximum sentence of twenty years for wire fraud, ten years for money laundering and five years for making false statements. Harding’s trial is set for January 11, 2023.