PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker who pleaded guilty to food-stamp fraud was sentenced to probation following a hearing Thursday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Ceci Velasquez was sentenced to 12 months supervised probation and 100 hours of community service for one count of unlawful use of food stamps. Those are the terms of the plea deal she struck earlier this year.
Velasquez was indicted in June by a state grand jury on three felony counts of fraud, theft and unlawful use of food stamps.
Judge Christopher Coury rejected Velasquez’s request to reduce the probation period to six months. But he dismissed the other two felony counts, noting she had paid restitution of $1,726 to the Arizona Department of Economic Services. The restitution was the exact amount the department alleges she fraudulently obtained between Nov. 1, 2013, and Jan. 31, 2015.
Velasquez choked back tears as she addressed the court, apologizing to the public, her family and the judge for her actions. She took responsibility, acknowledging she had not promptly notified DES when her household circumstances changed.
“This entire ordeal has been difficult for me, my children and my family,” she said.
She said she went on food stamps in the aftermath of a medical problem that made it hard for her to work. But, she noted, the program did what it’s intended to do: help her get back on her feet and off of state assistance. Today, she is employed and was able to pay back the amount of food stamps that she received over the 16 months she was on assistance.
Her attorney, Roy Herrera, said the public embarrassment of the high-profile case has been part of Velasquez’s punishment. She was the subject of much criticism, which the lawmaker found “deeply painful,” Herrera said.
Valasquez is a Democrat representing the Litchfield Park area serving her first term in the Arizona House of Representatives. In August, she dropped her bid for re-election after being asked to do so by party leadership but expressed her intent to carry out her current term, which ends in January.
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