JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Social Services Monday sued retired Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and three former professional wrestlers, along with several other individuals and companies, in an attempt to recover millions of mis-spent welfare dollars meant to help some of the poorest people in the United States.
The lawsuit says the defendants “wasted” more than $20 million from the anti-poverty program of temporary assistance to needy families.
The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after a mother and son ran a nonprofit group and education business in Mississippi. pleaded guilty to state criminal charges related to wasteful spending.
Nancy New, 69, and Zachary New, 39, agreed to testify against others in what state auditor Shad White called Mississippi’s biggest public corruption case in the past two decades.
In early 2020, Nancy New, Zachary New, former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis and three others were charged in state court, with prosecutors saying the aid money social had been misspent on things like rehab in Malibu, Calif., for former professional wrestler Brett DiBiase.
DiBiase is a defendant in the lawsuit filed Monday in Hinds County Circuit Court, along with his father and brother who were also professional wrestlers, Ted DiBiase Sr. and Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr.
Ted DiBiase Sr. was known as “The Million Dollar Man” while wrestling. He is a Christian evangelist and motivational speaker, and he ran Heart of David Ministries Inc., which received $1.7 million in welfare grants in 2017 and 2018 for mentoring, marketing and other services, according to the lawsuit.
AFTER: Brett Favre pledged to repay $1.1 million earmarked for welfare programs
Last year, White demanded reimbursement of $77 million in social funds wrongly spent by multiple individuals and groups, including $1.1 million paid to Favre, who lives in Mississippi. Favre has not been charged with any criminal act.
White said Favre was paid for speeches but did not show up. Favre repaid the money, but White said in October that Favre still owed $228,000 in interest. In a Facebook post when he repaid the first $500,000, Favre said he was unaware the money he received came from social funds. He also said his charity has provided millions of dollars to poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.
Months ago, the Auditor General’s Office turned over claims for misdirected welfare money to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office for enforcement. White said in a statement Monday that he knew the attorney general’s office would eventually press charges.
“I applaud the team filing this lawsuit and am grateful that the state is taking another step toward justice for taxpayers,” White said. “We will continue to work alongside our federal partners – who have had access to all of our evidence for over two years – to ensure the matter is fully investigated.”
The lawsuit filed Monday said Favre was at one time the largest individual outside investor and shareholder in Prevacus, a Florida-based company trying to develop a concussion drug. The lawsuit said that in December 2018, Favre urged Prevacus CEO Jake VanLandingham to ask Nancy New to use social grant money to invest in the company.
The lawsuit also said Favre hosted a Prevacus stock sale presentation at his home in January 2019, attended by VanLandingham, Davis, Nancy New, Zach New, and Ted DiBiase Jr., and a deal was reached. to spend a “substantial” welfare grant in Prevacus and later in its affiliate PreSolMD Inc.
The lawsuit said the action was in the names of Nancy New and Zach New, but was also for the financial benefit of Favre, VanLandingham and the two companies. The lawsuit seeks reimbursement of $2.1 million in social grants that were improperly paid to the two companies in 2019.
The Associated Press called a number once listed for Favre Enterprises on Monday and a recording said it was no longer in service.
Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Governor Tate Reeves said in a joint statement Monday, “Our purpose with this lawsuit is to seek justice for the shattered trust of the people of Mississippi and to recover funds that were misspent.”
Davis was selected to lead the Department of Human Services in 2016 by the then-governor. Phil Bryant – who, like Reeves, Fitch and White, is a Republican. Davis retired in July 2019 and is awaiting trial on criminal charges in wasteful spending.
Brett DiBiase pleaded guilty in December 2020 to one count of misrepresentation. He said in court documents that he submitted documents and received full payment for work he did not complete. He agreed to pay $48,000 in restitution and his sentence was postponed.