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Arizona Dem Pleads Not Guilty In Food Stamp Fraud Case

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

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An Arizona Democratic lawmaker pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday for allegedly falsifying her application when applying for food stamps.

State Rep. Cecilia Velasquez was charged May 23 with fraud, theft and unlawful use of food stamp benefits. The Arizona Department of Economic Security stated that she allegedly lied on her application when applying for food stamps. The Maricopa County Superior Court announced that she pleaded not guilty during her first court hearing.

“Cecilia Velasquez pled not guilty,” the court announced on its Twitter account. “Her next court date is 8/17 before Commissioner Richard Nothwehr.”

Velasquez allegedly claimed two fake dependents, provided a false address and allowed two other people to use her food stamp benefit card. 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.

“I have done nothing wrong,” Velasquez wrote June 22. “This is a political witch hunt. I’m confident that justice WILL prevail once all the facts are known.”

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. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 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.

DES and Velasquez did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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