Mississippi, the state where only 1.42 percent of people who qualify for welfare actually get it, has an ongoing scandal involving state officials diverting millions of dollars of federal anti-poverty funds into grifty causes for favored insiders, like the very nice volleyball stadium that former NFL star Brett Favre wanted built at the University of Southern Mississippi. Today, there's another development in that ongoing scandal, as John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) is pleading guilty today to a bunch of state and federal fraud charges.
Davis agreed to plead guilty to two federal charges and 18 state counts in exchange for his cooperation with state and federal investigators; the plea agreement document does not specify what sentence he'll have to serve. But how's this for being a lucky ducky? Whatever time he's sentenced to will be served in federal prison, not in Mississippi's notoriously harsh state prison system.
The guilty plea involves welfare funds that Davis directed to companies owned by WWE pro wrestler person Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase, and to DiBiase's son Teddy Jr.
Davis and the wrestler's son apparently became friends during Davis's term in office, from 2016 to 2019, Mississippi Today reports:
Davis instructed two nonprofits receiving tens of millions in welfare funds from his department to pay Teddy DiBiase Jr. under what the federal court filing called “sham contracts” to deliver personal development courses to state employees and a program for inner-city youth, “regardless of whether any work had been performed and knowing that no work would ever be performed.”
This makes Davis the third person involved in the scandal to agree in a plea deal to help investigators. In April, Nancy New and her son Zach New agreed to plead guilty to state and federal charges as well; Nancy New had been the director of the Mississippi Community Education Center, one of the nonprofits that took part in the misuse of funds from the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, which replaced what we used to call "welfare" and frankly still do.
The federal "bill of information" (it's like an indictment but different, since Davis is pleading guilty) explains that Davis directed funds from TANF and another federal program, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP, as in "I can't TEFAP to this"), to nonprofits run by unnamed co-conspirators, under the pretense that the moneys would go to companies that would provide legitimate anti-poverty services. (As we've noted previously, even when "properly" used, those often turn out to have little to do with helping poor people. Only about five percent of Mississippi TANF funding goes to direct cash assistance for families.)
The clever journos at Mississippi Today used the incorporation dates of the unnamed nonprofits and companies to figure out the identities of three of them co-conspirators. One was the Mississippi Community Education Center, run by New and her son Zach; another was the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, run by Christi Webb. Two companies owned by Teddy DiBiase Jr. were also involved, along with another entity that couldn't be identified.
The bill of information says that "As a result of the actions of DAVIS, the Co-Conspirators, and others, millions of dollars in federal safety-net funds were diverted from needy families and low-income individuals in Mississippi — all told, about $2.2 million went through the nonprofits to the two companies run by Teddy DiBiase." Of course, that's just a tiny fraction of the $77 million in misspent funds. Brett Favre himself received $1.1 million for PSAs he never made, and took a damn while and a lot of threats to pay it back, while cash assistance for people on TANF, for the entire state, totaled $3.7 million in 2020.
Casey Lott, the attorney for Cheri Webb, offered this hilaripathetic blame-shifting statement on behalf of Webb and her nonprofit:
The DiBiase’s and their organizations contracted to provide services to needy families. The problem is they didn’t hold up to their end of the bargain. And once they refused to do everything Christi asked them to do, she refused to award any additional subgrants to those organizations. This enraged John Davis. He yelled and cursed Christi and other FRC employees for not sending them money anyway. He threatened to cut their funding if Christi didn’t do what he told her to do. And when she stood her ground and did the right thing, he followed through with his threat. Christi is the only one who ever told John Davis ‘no,’ and she was punished for it. She was forced to lay hundreds of people off. Those innocent people who were providing much needed services to the North Mississippi community lost their job because Christi stood up to John Davis and did the right thing. So, to say she’s a ‘co-conspirator’ is absurd.
So maybe there was some corruption on the part of the rassler and his son, and on the part of Davis, but Webb and her nonprofit were but an innocent funnel with no idea that the money was in any way being misused. Mississippi Today notes that Webb "is facing civil charges but has not been charged criminally."
Now, it's worth noting that none of the documents in Davis's guilty plea mention Brett Favre or the scheme to build that volleyball stadium. But Davis's agreement to cooperate in the ongoing federal investigation could mean trouble for Favre, since now there's one more person who might be able to shed light on how much Favre knew about the deal. Text messages revealed earlier this month indicated that Favre was a LYING LIAR WHO LIED about not knowing he was sticking his dick in welfare-money pie.
As the scandal continues to unfold, it also appears that that some brands that have featured Favre in advertising are "quietly distancing themselves" from him, reports Front Office Sports, although none has publicly commented on the scandal. Gosh, that's too bad!
We'll keep you up to date on the story as it develops, especially if Favre is caught trying to sell undrinkable water from Jackson, the state's capitol, as a sports drink. You never know. Oh, yes, also a new development there: Last week, the city's "boil water" directive was lifted, although occasional reports of discolored water continued. Also, on Wednesday, Jackson residents filed a federal class action lawsuit to seek damages for decades of terrible water. Again, no no real connection to the welfare fraud scheme, apart from the fairly obvious fact that the welfare of low-income residents is clearly the last thing on the minds of the Republicans running the state.
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