Nearly a year after his company was charged with forgery, local real estate developer Michael Harding was indicted last week on seven counts, including mortgage fraud, money laundering, and bankruptcy fraud. This is not the local real estate developer’s first run-in with the law involving money, and Harding could face up to 55 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
Harding allegedly forged mortgage documents, obtained checks from mortgage companies intended for contractors, and took the checks to local businesses and had them cashed for his own personal use. The indictment also accuses Harding of filing false monthly reports and lying about forging signatures on real estate documents.
“There were just dozens of things like this; it was an ongoing operation,” said local attorney Robert Blodinger.
Blodinger is representing Jarman’s Sportcycles, one of the businesses that fell victim to Harding’s fraud, and the only victim named specifically in the indictment.
According to Blodinger, his client hired Harding, who was responsible for putting up a new building on the shop’s property. He arranged contracts for construction of the building, and in doing so, “invented a contractor who exists but wasn’t on this job,” JA Marshall Contracting. Blodinger said dozens of checks were endorsed—and likely forged—as the fake contractor.
“My client, as result of this, lost his motorcycle shop,” Blodinger said. The owner kept the business, he said, but lost the building because he couldn’t afford the mortgage payments. Blodinger said his client has opened a shop at a new location on 29, but the original site of Jarman’s on 250 will be sold at foreclosure in October.
Harding’s brother is Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding. Despite his position in local law enforcement, the Sheriff said he was not involved in the investigation in any way, and has never been questioned with regard to his brother’s activities.
“I love my brother and his family,” he said. “I will do what I can as a brother to support [them] outside of the legal process as this case moves toward a resolution.”
Chip Harding said he has had no participation in any phase of the investigation or prosecution process. With over 35 years with both state and federal law enforcement under his belt, he said he has confidence that his brother will have a fair trail with a proper and just conclusion.
The Sheriff said he was aware that “something was going on” several months ago, only because a friend informed him that his brother might be under investigation. He said he read the newspaper articles, but has neither discussed the issue with his brother nor read the indictment itself.
“I don’t really know much about it,” he said. “I’m staying apart from all that.”
*In the print version of this story, attorney Robert Blodinger’s name was misspelled as “Boldinger,” and the Jarman’s building foreclosure date was inaccurately stated as last October.