Big Freedia makes critical decision in theft case

Photo Credit: Big Freedia's Instagram (@bigfreediaqueendiva)
Photo credit: Instagram – @bigfreediaqueendiva

Big Freedia’s rise to fame has been meteoric over the past few years as he’s garnered a hit reality TV series, international concerts and even a feature on Beyoncé’s latest controversial single, ‘Formation.” But Freedia’s rise seemed to come to a screeching halt earlier this month when it was revealed that he’d been charged for lying in order to get Section 8 vouchers. Now, it’s been revealed that Freedia had his day in court and made a plea with the judge.

As previously reported, Freedia was charged with stealing more than a $34,000 worth of Section 8 vouchers by the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 2010 to 2014, when his income exceeded the federal subsidized housing limit thanks to his growing success.

At the time, Freedia released a statement saying that he didn’t intentionally try to steal from the government. Instead, he claimed that he simply made a grievous mistake because he didn’t know how to properly manage his finances.

“This is an incredibly unfortunate situation,” Freedia said in an emailed statement. “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.”

As expected, Freedia appeared in federal court in New Orleans yesterday with reality TV cameras and his usual vibrant persona in tow to plead guilty to stealing nearly $35,000 in Section 8 low-income housing vouchers.

According to media reports, Freedia signed documents in court admitting that he received $695 a month in federal vouchers from February 2011 to December 2014. During the time, Freedia told the government each year that he was only earning anywhere between $12,000 to $14,400 a year, which is below the maximum $21,700 a year that an individual can earn to qualify for Section 8 vouchers. However, financial records show that Freedia was making many times that amount thanks to his rising popularity in both music and reality TV.

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk told Freedia, “This crime is much more than an oversight. Do you understand that?” Freedia continued to be cooperative and simply replied, “Yes.”

After the arraignment, Freedia’s attorney, Tom Kappel, held a press conference and explained, again, that his client was prepared to take full responsibility for the crime.

“As we have acknowledged, this is an incredibly unfortunate situation for which my client unequivocally accepts responsibility,” Kappel said. “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.”

Freedia was released on a $25,000 bond and he’s scheduled to be sentenced on June 16.

Although Freedia has cooperated with the court and has already begun paying restitution to the government, he’s still facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he’s convicted of the crime. He also faces forfeiture of property equivalent to the amount of the vouchers received.

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