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Ex-NFL star Brett Favre, others sued over $20m in misspent Mississippi welfare funds

Ex-NFL star Brett Favre, others sued over $20m in misspent Mississippi welfare funds
State officials trying to recover money intended for the poorest citizens of one of the nation’s poorest states.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services sued ex-NFL star Brett Favre and three former professional wrestlers, among others, in an attempt to recover millions of misspent welfare dollars.

The lawsuit claims that the group of defendents improperly allocated more than $20m in welfare money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

The suit has been a long time coming. Back in 2020, former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis and a number of other people were charged in state court with misspending state welfare money.

Two weeks ago, two members of that group, a mother and son who ran an education company and nonprofit group, pleaded guilty to state criminal charges and agreed to testify on the state’s behalf.

That could potentially spell trouble for other people named in the suit, including Mr Favre, a Mississippi native and resident who was allegedly paid $1.1 million for speeches he never showed up for.

Mr Favre has repaid the money, which he said he did not know came from welfare funds, but State Auditor Shad White said that he still owes more than $200,000 in interest.

According to the state, Mr Favre was a major investor in a Florida-based company attempting to develop a drug to treat concussions. In December 2018, the ex-quarterback allegedly urged the company’s CEO to get the leadership of the Mississippi education group to use welfare grant money to invest in the company.

Favre is not the only ex-athlete in the crosshairs. The state alleges that $160,000 of welfare money was misspent on drug rehabilitation in Malibu, California for former pro wrestler Brett DiBiase, whose father, Ted DiBiase Sr., known as the ‘Million Dollar Man’ during his career, was also named in the suit.

Mr DiBiase Sr ran Heart of David Ministries Inc., a “ministry of evangelism” that recieved $1.7 million in state welfare money between 2017 and 2018.

Mr White, the Republican state auditor, has said that the misallocation of welfare funds represents the biggest corruption scandal in Mississippi in the last two decades. Mr Davis is facing a bevy of felony charges related to his conduct in office ranging from bribery to conspiracy.

The alleged misallocation of TANF funding is particularly notable in a state that has the highest rate of poverty in the US.

More than half a million Mississippians, nearly 20 percent of the state’s total population, live in poverty. A disporportinate number of those in poverty are Black and a disporportante number are children. The NAACP has asked the US Justice Department to investigate the state’s department of human services.

People eligible to receive TANF benefits in the state must be unemployed or underemployed, have a very low income level, and, in most cases, be pregnant or have a child under 18 years of age.

“I applaud the team filing this suit and am grateful the state is taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers,” Mr White said. “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.”