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‘Largest Public Fraud In State History’: Mississippi Lawsuit Against Brett Favre and Others Untangles Web of Squandered, Misspent Millions Intended to Help the Poorest In The State

This week the Mississippi Department of Human Services sued its former director and a Pro Football Hall of Famer for misusing more than $24 million meant to help the neediest families in the nation’s poorest state.

According to reports, John Davis, who was appointed to lead the state agency responsible for managing welfare programs in 2016, directed millions of dollars to two nonprofits who used the money to purchase luxury items, first-class airfare and pay Brett Favre for speaking arrangements he did not do, among other things.

Largest Public Fraud In State History': Mississippi Lawsuit Against Brett Favre and Others Untangles Web of Squandered, Misspent Millions Intended to Help the Poorest In The State
The Mississippi Department of Human Services has sued former NFL Player Brett Favre ad 37 other defendants for misspending welfare funds. (Photo: Twitter/Brett Favre)

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White called it the “largest public fraud in state history.” White is requesting an overall repayment of $77 million. About $1.1 million was paid to the retired Minnesota Vikings quarterback, who lives in Mississippi.

“I applaud the team filing this suit and am grateful the state is taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers,” White said in a statement. “We will continue to work alongside our federal partners — who have been given access to all our evidence for more than two years— to make sure the case is fully investigated.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that 19.6 percent of Mississippians live below the poverty line. The state’s 2.9 million residents have a median household income of $45,081, or $24,362 per person, according to U.S. Census data.

However, Davis used the public funding from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that provides cash for families with children under 18 to boost his and his associates’ personal gain.

According to The Clarion-Ledger, the state agency approved 167 out of 11,717 TANF applications in 2016. The Department of Human Health Services is allowed to issue sub grants to supplement nonprofits that help poor families.

Reports show Davis routed about $19 million of the funding to nonprofits ran by mother and son Zachary, 39, and Nancy New, 69, who are also named in the suit.

“That illegal quid pro quo agreement and conspiracy between Davis and New resulted in all of the transfers of TANF funds for non-TANF purposes,” the lawsuit reads.

About $4 million reportedly paid for a volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, which Favre backed.

The mother and son also agreed to give Florida-based pharmaceutical company Prevacus Inc. $1.7 million in exchange for them doing clinicial trials of a concussion drug in the state. Favre reportedly held the largest stake in the company.

Favre was also paid $1.1 million to speak in 2017 and 2018, which reports show he never did. He said he gave the speeches, but he would have never taken the money if he knew it was not being used as intended. He reportedly paid back $500,000. White said Favre still owes $828,000, including $228,000 in interest.

“I have never received monies for obligations I didn’t meet,” Favre tweeted on May 6, 2020. “To reiterate Auditors White’s statement, I was unaware that the money being dispersed was paid for out of funds not intended for that purpose, and because of that I am refunding the full amount back to Mississippi.”

The state is seeking $3.2 million from Favre in the lawsuit.

The News also paid for drug rehabilitation in California for former pro wrestler Brett DiBiase.

DiBiase, his father and his brother Ted DiBiase are among the 38 defendants in the civil suit. Davis also reportedly set up DiBiase with an agency job he was not qualified for but was paid $48,000 for work he allegedly did not do.

The News pleaded guilty to state fraud and bribery charges last month. Zachary New also pled guilty to mail fraud and federal conspiracy charges. His mother pleaded guilty to a state racketeering charge and federal wire fraud. They are now witnesses for the state against their four co-defendants.

“We will not tolerate the powerful preying on the weak,” Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said following the guilty verdict.

Davis left the state agency in 2019 and misspent the money during his tenure. He was indicted on 20 additional felony charges in relation to the scheme. Favre has not been charged in the criminal case.

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