AZ feature

An Arizona Democratic state representative is in big trouble with the law and, it turns out, where she allegedly committed her crimes is of great interest to her political rivals.

The Arizona attorney general has charged Democrat legislator Cecelia Velasquez with three felony charges of ripping off the food stamp program.

The Department of Economic Security, Arizona's social services department, listed the charges brought against the lawmaker:

“State Representative Velasquez was charged by the Arizona State Grand Jury on May 23, 2016, with three felony counts: Fraudulent Schemes and Practices, Unlawful Use of Food Stamps, and Theft. The indictment was unsealed on June 20, 2016.”

The Phoenix New Times reports that the lawmaker was basically running a small-time scam:

"The charges revolve around Velasquez allegedly providing false information on her SNAP eligibility paperwork, on which she claimed to have two dependents living with her who really weren't, the source said.

Velasquez also allowed her electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card to be used improperly by another person, said the source, who requested anonymity."

And that's where things get even more eyebrow raising, legally speaking. The legislator, who was elected in 2014 and represents the community of Litchfield, was running her alleged scam from a home that isn't in her House district:

"The investigation showed Velasquez wasn't living at her declared residence in Litchfield Park but rather in another Phoenix suburb further south, the town of Laveen.

If true, the revelation could mean trouble for Velasquez even if she's not convicted of a felony, because Velasquez must live in her district, and Laveen is miles from District 29."

When reached by Independent Journal Review, the Arizona Republican Party spokesman had no comment on the possibility that the Democrat had won her seat fraudulently, though he was surprised by the news.

If she's found guilty of any of the felony charges against her, she'll have to give up her seat.

The Arizona Republic reports that investigators went back three years to determine the damage to the taxpayers:

“Court documents allege Velasquez between 2013 and 2015 fraudulently used $1,726 worth of food stamps.”

But the director of DES, Timothy Jeffries, says if she did it, she ripped off poor people:

“The Arizona Department of Economic Security is vigilantly committed to protecting the public trust and taxpayer funds, safeguarding precious resources for the poor and disadvantaged, ensuring justice for all and defending the rule of law.”

Velasquez says she's innocent:

Some people aren't buying it, including her opponent in the last election:

And others chimed in:

Ironically, Velasquez's biography reveals she worked as a DES employee for 12 years and is pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. She has also worked as a paralegal.

She's also had previous run-ins with the law, according to USA Today:

“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.”

The state will lay out its case against the state rep in court on July 5th.

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