Musician and reality star Big Freedia, who identifies as a gay man but prefers the pronoun "she," was charged Tuesday in her native New Orleans with theft of government funds for allegedly lying about her income in order to obtain Section 8 vouchers for subsidized housing from 2010 through 2014, according to Portland, Oregon news station WWL-TV.
Freedia, who is known as "Queen of the Bounce," and most recently appeared in Beyonce's "Formation" video, told Pitchfork and that the matter stemmed from an error on her part:
"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."
According to WWL-TV, court documents show that Freedia, whose given name is Freddie Ross, Jr., will plead guilty to stealing more than $1,000 in housing vouchers worth more than $34,000. The alleged theft took place as Freedia was ascending to fame, in the process of securing her own reality TV show, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, on the Fuse Network.
If convicted, Freedia could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to WWL TV. Freedia's initial appearance in Federal court is set for March 16.
Watch WWL-TV's report on the charges against Freedia below.
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