GAINESVILLE — On March 21, a former Florida state representative from Levy County pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements in reference to COVID-19 relief fraud, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Florida.

Court documents show 35-year-old Joseph Harding, of Williston, “devised a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and obtained coronavirus-related small business loans by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and while executing such scheme, caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce,” the news release said.

Furthermore, according to the news release, Harding created “a false and fraudulent SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) application, in the name of one of his dormant business entities, that he submitted to the SBA.” As a result, he fraudulently acquired $150,000 in Covid-19 relief funds from the SBA, of which he had no right.

After Harding got the EIDL funds, he performed three monetary transactions that consisted of over $10,000 in fraudulently-obtained funds. According to the news release, these transactions were: “a transfer to his joint bank account, a payment to his credit card and a transfer into a bank account of a third-party business entity.”

According to the news release, Harding faces up to a total of 35 years (wire fraud, 20 years; money laundering, 10 years; and making false statements, five years) of imprisonment for the offenses. A sentencing hearing is set for July 25 at 11 a.m. at the U.S. Courthouse in Gainesville.

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