The Mississippi Department of Human Services has sued former NFL star Brett Favre and three former professional wrestlers, among others, in an attempt to recover millions of wasted welfare dollars.
The lawsuit claims that the group of defendants improperly allocated more than $20 million in welfare money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
The suit has taken a long time to arrive. In 2020, former Mississippi Department of Human Services Executive Director John Davis and several others were charged in state court with wasting state public assistance money.
Two weeks ago, two members of that group, a mother and son who ran an education company and a nonprofit group, pleaded guilty to state criminal charges and agreed to testify on behalf of the state.
That could spell trouble for other people named in the lawsuit, including Mr. Favre, a Mississippi native and resident who was allegedly paid $1.1 million for speeches he never showed up for.
Mr. Favre returned the money, which he said he did not know came from welfare funds, but State Auditor Shad White said he still owes more than $200,000 in interest.
According to the state, Mr. Favre was a major investor in a Florida-based company that was trying to develop a drug to treat concussions. In December 2018, the former quarterback allegedly urged the company’s CEO to get leaders of the Mississippi education group to use welfare grant money to invest in the company.
Favre isn’t the only former athlete in the crosshairs. The state alleges that $160,000 of welfare money was wasted on drug rehab in Malibu, California, for former professional wrestler Brett DiBiase, whose father, Ted DiBiase Sr., was known as the ‘Million Dollar Man’ during his career. , was also named in the lawsuit. .
Mr. DiBiase Sr. led Heart of David Ministries Inc., an “evangelizing ministry” that received $1.7 million in state welfare funds between 2017 and 2018.
White, the Republican state auditor, has said the welfare misallocation represents the biggest corruption scandal in Mississippi in two decades. Davis faces a series of felony charges related to his conduct in office ranging from bribery to conspiracy.
The alleged misallocation of TANF funds is particularly notable in a state that has the highest poverty rate in the US.
More than half a million Mississippians, nearly 20 percent of the state’s total population, live in poverty. A disproportionate number of those living in poverty are black and a disproportionate number are children. The NAACP has asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the state department of human services.
People eligible for in-state TANF benefits must be unemployed or underemployed, have a very low income level, and, in most cases, be pregnant or have a child under the age of 18.
“I applaud the team that brought this lawsuit and am grateful that the state is taking another step toward justice for taxpayers,” White said. “We will continue to work together with our federal partners, who have been given access to all of our evidence for more than two years, to ensure that the case is thoroughly investigated.”