State Rep. Joe Harding resigns after DOJ indictment

Rep. Joseph Harding, 35, of Williston is accused of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:48 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB/NSF) - Republican state Representative for House District 24, Joe Harding resigned following the DOJ indictment concerning allegations of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements.

Harding released the statement regarding his resignation Thursday via Facebook.

Today, effective immediately, I am resigning from my position as the State Representative of House District 24.

When I decided to run in in 2019 for the Florida House, I did so for two simple reasons: I love people, and I love Florida. Today, I am resigning from my position for the same two reasons: I love people, and I love Florida. I believe in Floridians and want what is best for them, and I believe their leaders need not be encumbered by distractions that are mine alone.

During my time in the legislature, I have been able to fight for Florida’s families, and I have been able to represent the people that make my district great: the farmers, the parents, the first responders, the employees, and the employers. If my time in the legislature was meant, by Providence, to only be two years, I can say with confidence that I left it all on the field for those two years.

When elected in 2019, I told all that would listen that I am not a politician, and I would not communicate or navigate as a politician, but rather as a part-time legislator, a full-time dad and husband, and, most importantly, as a fellow Floridian.

During the 2022 legislative cycle, when I was under incredible heat regarding my defense of Florida’s parents and families, many were frustrated that I didn’t respond to every critic in the media. I didn’t respond to every critic because the critics were not my constituents. Florida’s families were, and in this instance, they still are.

To my many colleagues that have reached out to me, including many I have deep policy disagreements with, thank you. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve alongside you for the past two years. I will always be here for you, regardless of whether you have an R or D behind your name. I love you. Keep making Florida special and never forget where you came from and who you represent.

To the people I interacted with yesterday at the Gainesville Federal Court House, thank you. Thank you for your service to our country. To the men and women serving as law enforcement in the court system, thank you for being professional.

Regarding the current legal matter, I cannot comment on the details of my case. There will be a time when I can tell my story in detail, and I will. For now, let me reassure my constituents and the taxpayers that I repaid every penny of the loan I obtained, and I have done my best to cooperate fully with all authorities. That is all I will say for now, and I will communicate any additional details of my legal matter through my attorney.

I want to thank my wife, my children, my family, and my staff for giving me this opportunity to serve our state, and I thank you for standing by me even now during this difficult time. Any success we had was because of you.

I will close with this verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” – Jeremiah 29:11-12

Dear Speaker Renner:

Thank you for your leadership and your commitment to principle. The Florida House is going to accomplish

great things with you at the helm.

It has been a great honor to serve the people of this state and more specifically the people of Levy and Marion Counties. However, due to legal issues that require my complete focus, it is my opinion that now is the time to allow someone else to serve my district.

Today, effective immediately, I am resigning from my position as the State Representative of House District 24.

Thank you, and may God bless you and the state of Florida.

Kindest Regards,

Joe Harding

Joe Harding via Facebook

The U.S. Department of Justice is indicting a Florida state representative from North Central Florida on allegations of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements. State House Speaker Paul Renner has temporarily removed Rep. Joseph Harding, 35, of Williston from all his committee assignments.

A federal grand jury has returned a six-count indictment against Harding who represents state House District 24. On Wednesday, he was arraigned and released on a $10,000 bond.

Federal prosecutors accuse Harding of committing wire fraud by participating in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and for obtaining coronavirus-related small business loans. He illegally obtained more than $150,000 in funds from the SBA.

According to the indictment, Harding applied for coronavirus-related small business loans for his “dormant” businesses The Vak Shack Inc. and Harding Farms LLC. As a result, the SBA disbursed money to him based on documents that falsely represented the number of employees and gross revenue for the inactive businesses.

He reported the two businesses had a combined revenue of more than $800,000 in the year before the pandemic and had six employees, however, prosecutors say the businesses had no employees and no revenue in 2019.

Just days before applying for COVID relief, he allegedly filed paperwork with the state to reinstate the businesses in order to make it appear that they were active.

The trial for Harding is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2023, at the United States Courthouse in Gainesville. He faces decades in prison if convicted on the charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements.

Harding issued a statement Wednesday evening that said he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“I want the public and my constituents to know that I fully repaid the loan and cooperated with investigators as requested,” Harding said.

He also said his attorney advised him not to say anything more specific about the legal proceedings.

“I ask that you keep me and my family in your prayers as we work for a fair and just resolution,” Harding said in the statement. “Thank you, and may God bless you.”

State House Speaker Pro Tem Chuck Clemons of Newberry tells TV20 he is shocked to hear the news but is eager to find out more about the facts. He adds that “every citizen, including a state representative, is entitled to his day in court.”

“After consultation with Representative Harding regarding his indictment, I am temporarily removing him from his committee assignments to allow him time to focus on this matter. 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. Since the indictment does not relate to any aspect of his legislative duties, any further questions should be directed to his legal counsel.”

Statement from Speaker Paul Renner

Harding was one the sponsors of Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education law that opponents dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

--Ryan Dailey of News Service of Florida contributed to this report

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