Big Freedia, the internationally famous New Orleans bounce music artist, has been charged with a felony count of theft of federal funds. Freedia, identified in court documents by her legal name of Freddie Ross, Jr., is accused of stealing more than $1,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development between 2010 and 2014.
She faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and fine of $250,000.
Freedia’s attorney, Tim Kappel, said he is negotiating a plea deal with the government for Freedia to pay restitution of $34,000. He said he does not expect Freedia to serve any jail time.
In a statement, Freedia said she received federal housing vouchers for “many years” prior to rapidly gaining fame and “a new economic structure.” Freedia said she “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,” Freedia said in the statement. “It was an oversight – but one that I take full responsibility for.”
Kappel said Freedia previously offered to pay restitution, and to contribute to nonprofit organizations focused on tax preparation for low-income citizens and advocacy for LGBT youth, in a pre-trial diversion program.
“We made an offer that included restitution plus community service as part of a pre-trial diversion program,” Kappel said, but the offer was “rejected by the government in favor of a felony count.”
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office did not immediately respond to a query concerning the pre-trial diversion offer.