By Associated Press - Saturday, October 24, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko is blaming her ex-husband for a series of financial and legal entanglements in the 1980s and ‘90s.

The Arizona Republican, who is one of President Donald Trump’s most outspoken supporters in Congress, has a past that includes bankruptcies, lawsuits over unpaid bills and an arrest warrant, The Arizona Republic reported Saturday.

Lesko has openly discussed what she describes as an abusive first marriage, but details of her past had not been well known. She said her ex-husband is a “con man” who preyed on others, including her.

Shortly before the newspaper story was published, Lesko created a website linking to details of her ex-husband’s criminal past and an emotional video of her daughter describing the abuse she saw and experienced as a child. Lesko’s former husband, Jeffrey Ignas, is in prison in Arizona on fraud charges under the name Jeffrey Herald.

Lesko and Ignas married in 1985. Three years later, when Lesko was 29, she was charged in Conroe, Texas, under the name Debra Kay Lorenz with tampering with government records, a misdemeanor. The prosecutor dropped the charges, along with others mostly involving bad checks, in 1994, according to online court records reviewed by The Republic.

“Thirty-five years ago, I married an abusive, con-artist ex-husband who ran scams on everyone, including me,” Lesko told the newspaper in response to written questions. “I made some mistakes, but the misdemeanor from 32 years ago was dismissed.”

The couple filed for bankruptcy in 1992 under Chapter 13. The next year, they were sued for failing to pay for equipment their fence-building company had leased. The lawsuit claimed they owed more than $10,000. A month later, a lender sued for an $11,000 unpaid bill. The couple filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in 1993.

The case files show Lesko was known as Debbie Harris, Debra Ignas, Debra Schultz and Debra Howard.

“I had to list all the alias names he had used for me in order to protect myself in the bankruptcy proceedings,” Lesko said.

She filed for divorce in September 1993. The second bankruptcy case closed in 1994, and the court proceedings apparently dissipated.

Lesko, 61, a former Peoria school board member and state lawmaker, won a special election in 2018 to replace Republican Rep. Trent Franks in Arizona’s conservative 8th Congressional District, which covers the West Valley. She was elected to a full term later that year and is favored to win a second term over Democrat Michael Muscato, a former professional baseball player who now owns a gym in Glendale.

Mark Macias, a spokesman for Muscato, said Lesko has deflected her own responsibility for years of bad business practices. She got away with it because she used aliases, he said.

“She has run on a business record that was a lie,” Macias said. “She was sued for running a fraudulent business.”

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