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Big Freedia pleads guilty to theft of government funds, faces 10 years in prison

on March 18, 2016, 3:17pm

Photo by David Brendan Hall

New Orleans bounce music artist Big Freedia has pled guilty to theft of government funds.

The U.S. attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Louisiana alleges Big Freedia (née Freddie Ross) falsely reported income and illegally took money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In a statement issued to Pitchfork, Ross called the situation an “oversight,” explaining: “I was on subsidized housing for many years before my financial situation changed. I quickly found myself in a new economic structure and, frankly, knew little about how to handle my money. It wasn’t until recently (after I had stopped receiving housing vouchers) that it became very clear I had received assistance to which I wasn’t entitled. It was an oversight—but one that I take full responsibility for.”

Ross faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, and will be sentenced in June. The presiding judge, Lance M. Africk, told Ross that her alleged crime “is much more than an oversight.”

Ross’ attorney said in a statement, “As we’ve acknowledged, this is an incredibly unfortunate situation for which my client unequivocally accepts responsibility. Freedia has cooperated with the government at every stage of their investigation and her guilty plea today is another step forward in putting this matter behind us.”

Read Freedia’s full statement below:

“This is an incredibly unfortunate situation. I was on subsidized housing for many years before my financial situation changed. I quickly found myself in a new economic structure and, frankly, knew little about how to handle my money. It wasn’t until recently (after I had stopped receiving housing vouchers) that it became very clear I had received assistance to which I wasn’t entitled. It was an oversight—but one that I take full responsibility for. From the moment I was contacted by Government agents, I have fully cooperated and have already begun making arrangements to pay full restitution (of approximately $34,000).

Housing vouchers are a vital lifeline for many people I know in New Orleans and around the country, including struggling artists. I truly believe there needs to be more programs for artists and musicians to teach basic financial literacy and planning. Coming from where I came from, I know that I could have used that kind of assistance. I’m exploring ways to be a part of the solution in this area and am looking forward to putting this matter behind me.”

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