“Theft of any amount of taxpayer money is inexcusable,” Jason Coody, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said in a statement. “However, the defendants’ deceptive actions to remove emergency financial assistance from small businesses during the pandemic are baseless. Today’s sentence punishes the defendant’s criminal conduct and should serve as an important deterrent to others who would selfishly steal from their fellow citizens to unlawfully enrich themselves.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Harding was first elected to the State House in 2020 from the North Central Florida seat that includes parts of Marion County. He resigned from the Legislature a day after a federal grand jury dropped an indictment against him last December.
In a sentencing memo to the judge in August, federal prosecutors said Harding’s contributions to his community were “commendable,” but they also said “his deliberate criminal acts while serving as an elected state representative were a serious threat to the public trust.” indicate a betrayal.” Coody concluded that the change in sentencing guidelines was necessary because Harding had repaid the debt and confessed after being caught, but he argued that some prison time was still needed to act as a deterrent.
Authorities accused Harding of using false bank details for two dormant small businesses to obtain loans from the Small Business Administration during the pandemic. According to authorities, Harding told the SBA that for the 12 months before Jan. 31, 2020, one of the companies, The Walk Shack, had four employees and revenue of $420,874, while Harding Farms had two employees and revenue of $392,000.
Ryan Chamberlin, a Republican from Bellevue, replaced Harding in the state House after winning a five-way GOP primary and then a special election in May.
Titled “Parental Rights in Education”, the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill sponsored by Harding was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. This led to national condemnation from Democrats and LGBTQ supporters and a high-profile fight. The governor and the Walt Disney Company, whose CEO was at the time, criticized the legislation.