Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced charges against Florida State Representative Joe Harding, accusing him of creating a pandemic relief program to get loans for companies that had gone defunct years earlier.
Mr. Harding, a Republican, is best known as the author of Florida’s parental rights law, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
A grand jury indicted Mr. Harding for fraud, money laundering and making false statements.
Mr Harding pleaded not guilty to the six charges against him and was released on bail.
The Washington Times has contacted his state congressional office and his attorney for comment.
Prosecutors say he applied for $150,000 in pandemic loans from the Small Business Administration.
Mr. Harding claimed that one of the companies, the Vak Shack Inc., grossed more than $420,000 and employed four people in the year before the pandemic. He claimed that the other company, Harding Farms LLC, had $392,000 in revenue.
According to prosecutors, both companies had been dormant since 2017.
Mr Harding’s bill regulating the treatment of gender identity in schools became a national sensation earlier this year.
The law prohibits schools from teaching sexual orientation or sexual identity in kindergarten through third grade, or any other grade “in a way that is age-appropriate or developmentally inconsistent with the state standards.”
He told the Florida media that he was becoming concerned about what the schools seem to be focusing on the issue — and in particular about urging students to separate their identity from their gender at birth.