Democratic Lawmaker Indicted On Food Stamp Fraud

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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An Arizona Democratic lawmaker was indicted on felony charges for allegedly falsifying her application when applying for food stamps, investigators announced Wednesday.

State Rep. Cecilia Velasquez was charged with fraud, theft and unlawful use of food stamp benefits. The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) detailed that she allegedly lied on her application when applying for food stamps. She allegedly claimed two fake dependents, provided a false address and allowed two other people to use her food stamp benefit card.

“The indictment of State Representative Velasquez is the culmination of an extensive multi-year investigation,” Inspector General Juan J. Arcellana said in a statement. “The forthcoming judicial proceedings will ensure due process for the involved parties.”

The DES inspector general alongside the Arizona State Grand Jury led the investigation and eventual indictment. The inspector general launched the investigation in November 2014 when it got a tip on its fraud reporting hotline, reports The Associated Press. She was elected a state representative around the same time.

“The Arizona Department of Economic Security is vigilantly committed to protecting the public trust and taxpayer funds,” DES Director Timothy Jeffries said in a statement. “Safeguarding precious resources for the poor and disadvantaged, ensuring justice for all and defending the rule of law.”

The food stamp program is designed to provide nutritional support to low-income and impoverished individuals. It is the largest food-assistance welfare program in the country. It is officially known as the The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the program in coordination with state agencies.

The USDA estimates the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million.

Velasquez and her office did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation. Her first hearing is scheduled for July 5.

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