Former Lawmaker Behind 'Don't Say Gay' Law Gets Prison Sentence for COVID-19 Aid Fraud

  • by:
  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 10/25/2023
Joe Harding, a former Florida state lawmaker, gained notoriety for his involvement in the enactment of a contentious law known as "don't say gay."

However, he has recently faced legal consequences for his actions unrelated to this legislation. Specifically, Harding has been sentenced to prison for engaging in fraudulent activities related to the collection of government aid intended to support small businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March, the former Republican representative entered a guilty plea for multiple charges, which included wire fraud. The charges stemmed from the individual's fraudulent actions in obtaining $150,000 in pandemic relief funds that were specifically designated for small businesses.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program was created with the purpose of offering economic assistance to small businesses that are facing a significant decline in revenue, albeit temporarily. However, there were individuals who saw this as a chance to generate additional income.

Harding faced potential consequences for his alleged crime, which could have resulted in a maximum sentence of 20 years. However, the final verdict led to a comparatively shorter duration of four months in federal prison.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Mr. Harding will be subject to two years of supervised release following his incarceration. In a separate incident, Patrick Walsh, who happens to be Harding's brother-in-law, was also convicted and subsequently sentenced to prison time. This was due to his involvement in a distinct scheme aimed at fraudulently acquiring small-business funds amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The individual received a prison sentence that exceeded five years.


In a press release, U.S. Attorney Jason Coody expressed his strong disapproval for the theft of taxpayer funds, emphasizing that such actions are completely unjustifiable. The defendant's actions of diverting emergency financial assistance from small businesses during the pandemic are considered deceptive and unacceptable.


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