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An Arizona Democratic lawmaker who once voted against welfare fraud protections in her state has been indicted on felony charges of defrauding the food stamp program.
According to the indictment unsealed earlier this week, state Rep. Cecilia Velasquez was charged with three felony counts: unlawful use of food stamps, fraudulent schemes and practices, and theft.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security began investigating Velasquez in 2014. According to the Arizona DES, Velasquez fraudulently used $1,726 worth of food stamps between 2013 and 2015.
This past February, Velasquez had voted against a bill aimed at giving the same state agency stronger anti-fraud tools – a program that could have quickly detected her alleged fraudulent activity.
Velasquez did not return calls from The Republic seeking comment. But shortly after the indictment was announced, a statement was posted to her Twitter account: “I have done nothing wrong! This is a political witch hunt. I’m confident that justice WILL prevail once all the facts are known!”
“The indictment of State Rep. Velasquez is the culmination of an extensive multi-year investigation. The forthcoming judicial proceedings will ensure due process for the involved parties,” he said in a statement.
Arizona Department of Economic Security officials charged state representative CECILIA VELASQUEZ with theft, fraud and unlawful use of food stamps on Wednesday. She is set to appear in court on July 5. It's unclear if she has a lawyer ready to represent her and speak on her behalf. Officials involved in the investigation allege that Velasquez falsely said that she had two dependents, gave a fake address and let two other people use the food stamp benefit card she had.
Velasquez, an Arizona native and paralegal, was elected to the Legislature in 2014. Her political career began amid controversy, when it was discovered there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest for $2,000 in unpaid court fines stemming from charges of driving on a suspended license and without insurance.