NEW ORLEANS - Rapper and reality TV star Big Freedia pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to stealing nearly $35,000 in Section 8 low-income housing vouchers between 2010 and 2014.
Known as the “Queen of Bounce” for popularizing the unique form of New Orleans rap around the world, Big Freedia’s real name is Freddie Ross Jr., and he was charged and referred to by federal prosecutors as a man.
Big Freedia thanked his fans for their support as he walked into court with his reality TV crew in tow and wearing his purple hair long and straight over a black velvet jacket, with sequins shoes and glittery fingernails.
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk started the arraignment proceedings by asking Big Freedia how the court should address him. “No preference,” he said.
Big Freedia later signed paperwork admitting that he got $695 a month in federal housing vouchers from February 2011 to December 2014, by telling government officials each year that he was making anywhere from $12,000 to $14,400 a year, which was below the low-income threshold of $21,700 a year to qualify for Section 8.
In reality he was making much more, from international concert tours, his T-V show and Big Freedia merchandise sales. He hit a new high in popularity recently when he appeared in Beyonce’s “Formation” video.
In his initial Section 8 application in 2009, Freddie Ross Jr. claimed he was making between $100 and $1,000 a month, court records show. But his star quickly rose in 2010, as he moved to an apartment on Warrington Drive in Gentilly. Still, he claimed his assets were just $250 in 2014, allowing him to collect $6,136 in housing vouchers that year.
Judge Lance Africk told Big Freedia in court: "This crime is much more than an oversight. Do you understand that?" To which the star said: "Yes."
Big Freedia's attorney, Tim Kappel, addressed his client's responsibility afterwards.
“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.”