Mississippi welfare scheme: Former state official pleads guilty to scheme in which misused money went to prominent Mississippians, including Brett Favre

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Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office announced that the former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, John Davis, had pleaded guilty to two federal and 18 state counts.

The DOJ said Davis and “his co-conspirators” used federal funds “for their personal use and benefit.”

“At Davis’ direction, MDHS provided federal funds to two nonprofit organizations and then directed the two nonprofit organizations to fraudulently award contracts to various entities and individuals for social services that were never delivered,” federal prosecutors said in a news release.

On Thursday, the former state official pleaded guilty to two federal charges: one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft related to programs receiving federal funds, and one count of theft related to programs receiving federal funds, the DOJ announced. He faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy and 10 years for theft.

Davis also pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy and 13 counts of wire fraud in Hinds County, District Attorney Jody E. Owens said in a tweet Thursday.

“Davis was one of six defendants arrested and later indicted in 2020 in one of the largest embezzlement schemes in Mississippi history,” Owens said.

Auditor says $77 million in funds were intended for welfare program

The major fraud scheme was revealed in 2020 by a state audit of federal funds awarded to state agencies. When State Auditor Shad White announced the findhe called the scheme “the most appalling waste of money that my staff has seen in their careers.”
Brett Favre's texts included in the lawsuit about misused Mississippi welfare funds

The eight-month investigation found the department gave more than $98 million to two nonprofits: the Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi. Of the $98 million, $94 million was “questioned,” meaning it was either definitively misspent or auditors were unable to determine whether it was legitimately spent.

The state auditor has said so about 77 million dollars of money was intended for a state welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Last week, White told CNN, “I think what you had was a lot of money pushed through a government agency that decided to send the money to a nonprofit organization. There just weren’t a ton of checks of how the nonprofit spent that money until the auditor’s office started digging into it.

“And then, you know, going another step forward in the future, I think it’s important that we show the public that there will be consequences for this.”

Favre’s alma mater got a new volleyball arena

According to investigators, more than $4 million was used to build a Brett Favre-backed volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s alma mater and where his daughter played the sport at the time.

The state of Mississippi filed a civil suit earlier this year against more than 35 individuals and entities, including the Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Text messages were released last week as part of the civil suit by lawyers for the non-profit founded by Nancy New, which has already pleaded guilty to charges related to the welfare fund scheme. They showed Favre discussing getting money through New’s nonprofit and expressing his love for Davis after learning about the funding, as well as meetings with Davis and former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant about the funding.

Bryant and Favre have not been charged with any wrongdoing at this time. Bryant is also not named as a defendant in the civil suit.

The former quarterback’s attorney told CNN that Favre, who retired after the 2010 season and a 20-year NFL career, did not know welfare funds were being used for the volleyball center and that his fundraising efforts for the volleyball center were honorable.

CNN’s Eric Levenson and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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