- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The entertainer who goes by the name Big Freedia was charged Tuesday with theft of government funds, the U.S. attorney’s office in New Orleans said.

A bill of information said the entertainer, whose real name is Freddie Ross Jr., illegally took money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The document provided few details.

In a statement, Big Freedia described the situation as “incredibly unfortunate.”

She said she had been on federally subsidized housing for years before her 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,” she said.

Big Freedia said the infraction was “an oversight - but one that I take full responsibility for.”

She said she has been cooperating with the federal government and has already started making arrangements to pay full restitution of about $34,000.

The alleged theft happened between 2010 and 2014. Big Freedia’s first court appearance is set for March 16 before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, her attorney, Tim Kappel, said.

Big Freedia said she is looking forward to putting the matter behind her.

“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.”

Fuse recently renewed a fifth season of the performer’s docu-style reality television show, “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce.” The network said the show’s fourth season was its best rated season among adults 18-34.

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