Following allegations from federal prosecutors that bounce star Big Freedia
fraudulently received money for housing, Freedia says she's making arrangements to pay full restitution.
“This is an incredibly unfortunate situation," Freedia said in a 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. 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)."
According to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite, Freedia — charged as Freddie Ross Jr. — received vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) between 2010 and 2014. If charged, Freedia would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The one-count Bill of Information is spare on details but says Freedia "did knowingly steal, purloin and convert to his own use money" from HUD.
Freedia, wearing the seemingly untouchable queen diva crown of bounce, reintroduced the New Orleans music to international audiences, whether on stages around the globe or on television as the star of Fuse's hit reality TV series Queen of Bounce.
Freda's expanding star power continued with her voice appearing on Beyonce's New Orleans-centric video for "Formation," and Freedia has announced plans for a second full-length album this year, which she teased with the February single "I Heard."
Freedia's attorney Timothy R.W. Kappel told Gambit
that they're more focused on the First Amendment issue building in Mississippi, where the state's Alcohol Beverage Control forced a Hattiesburg venue to cancel a show because, essentially, twerking.
"Housing vouchers are a vital lifeline for many people I know in New Orleans and around the country, including struggling artists," Freedia said. "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.”
The felony case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jordan Ginsberg and Maria Carboni and was investigated by agents from HUD, the FBI and the Housing Authority of New Orleans.