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Press Release

Lake County Woman Pleads Guilty To COVID Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Nicole Harding (38, Clermont) has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Harding faces up to 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to court records, between March 28 and April 14, 2021, Harding devised a scheme to defraud the Small Business Association by submitting a false Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loan application. PPP loans were one of the sources of economic relief provided for by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. Harding provided false representations in her PPP application to secure the loan. The loan proceeds ($19,965) were later electronically transferred into her bank account. Harding then used the money for personal expenses, including a tattoo.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Justice Department in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The task force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hannah Nowalk.

Updated June 25, 2024

Disaster Fraud
Financial Fraud