Brett Favre, a Hall of Fame quarterback, is in trouble for his role in the Mississippi welfare scam, in which about $77 million was stolen. Favre has denied knowing that the money he got for different projects was aid money. He has not been charged with a crime. The case is complicated, as shown by court documents, text messages, and tax records.
Here’s some history and a summary of what’s going on:
The Story Behind the Brett Favre Scandal
The welfare scam as a whole is the largest case of public corruption in Mississippi’s history. It includes cash from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, an initiative of the United States federal government that distributes grants to states and territories to assist low-income families. According to benefits.gov, “state-administered programs may include childcare assistance, job preparation, and work assistance.”
John Davis, formerly the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, pled guilty to conspiracy on September 22, 2022, and theft related to federally funded programs on September 22. As the Department of Justice, Davis conspired with four others who were not identified.
For social services that were never rendered, MDHS “provided federal funds to two nonprofit organizations and then directed the two nonprofit organizations to fraudulently award contracts to various entities and individuals,” according to the statement.
The U.S. attorney’s office for southern Mississippi requested a postponement of Davis’ sentencing from its planned February 2, 2023 date because “sentencing, in this case, will be complex.”
According to an October 2021 press statement from White’s office, the two NGOs in question were the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center (FRC). Families First for Mississippi was a statewide initiative that the two groups collaborated on.
2017-2018 Volleyball court construction
Favre started asking then-Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi in the summer of 2017 to build a new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he had played college football and where his daughter had played volleyball. Favre reportedly asked MCEC founder Nancy New about the confidentiality of his payments through text message on August 3, 2017.
“If you were to pay me, is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much?” he asked?
The whole statement is provided in the tweet below:
“If you were to pay me is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much?” —Brett Favre
“Also the prize goes to Anna Wolfe… for reporting that revealed how a former MS gov used millions in state welfare [to benefit friends]… including Brett Favre.” https://t.co/YPJW1b2tLh pic.twitter.com/einMWzO9zl
— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) May 8, 2023
She promised him that nobody else would know about this. The following day, she informed him that Bryant had agreed to their proposal. Before the end of 2022, both New and her son Zach entered guilty pleas to 13 criminal counts stemming from the controversy.
An audit revealed that Favre was paid $600,000 in June 2018 for a series of lectures and appearances he did not make. The money, as per Favre, was handed to him because he filmed ads for the charity. The auditor concluded that Favre’s contract required him to make public appearances and air a radio commercial.
Prevacus, the Year 2018
Favre has ties to a pharmaceutical firm that has been implicated in the controversy unfolding in Mississippi.
According to Mississippi Today, Favre gave Bryant an update on Prevacus, a company in which he has invested heavily. The strategy reportedly netted the firm $2.15 million. Mississippi Today discovered 2018 text messages between Prevacus founder Jake Vanlandingham and Favre in which they offered Bryant stock in the company. White ultimately revealed Bryant as the informant who tipped off authorities to the welfare fraud.
The pharmaceutical firm, now known as Odyssey Health, was rumored to be working on a nasal spray for the treatment of concussions. Abby Wambach, winner of six U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year awards, reportedly severed connections with the company on September 29, 2022.
Indoor football stadium set to open in 2019
Favre’s engagement with Southern Miss went beyond the construction of a $5 million volleyball facility. To assist recruit quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion Sanders’ son, Favre looked to seek money for a new football facility at Southern Miss in July 2019.
“As I suspected Deion’s son asked where the indoor facility was and I said [we] don’t have one but [we] are hoping to break ground in less than 2 years,” Favre texted Bryant, per Reports.
“Now that will not happen without your help/commitment!!! I know we have the Vball to complete first and I’m asking a lot with that and I believe 100% that if you can get this done Nancy will reach and help many and in the recruiting war [a new indoor practice facility] will give USM[‘s football program] instant credibility and [USM football will] become relevant again.”
Bryant’s attorney Billy Quin alleged in a court statement that Favre “continued to press for state funds, first from DHS and later in a legislative appropriation.” Bryant informed Favre by text message on July 28, 2019, that the money is “tightly controlled” and that “any improper use could result in violation of Federal Law.” The application of these money is now being audited.
Later that year, on September 4th, 2019, Favre and Bryant exchanged text messages that show Favre increasing the pressure on Bryant.
“We are not taking No for an answer! You are a Southern Miss Alumni, and folks need to know you are also a supporter of the University,” Favre wrote.
“We are going to get there. This was a great meeting. But we have to follow the law. I am to(o) old for Federal Prison.” Bryant replied, adding an emoji wearing sunglasses.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services delivered $98 million in federal welfare monies to two charities over the course of three years, and a 104-page audit revealed that most of this money had been misappropriated after an eight-month investigation.
Favre Enterprises received a total of $1.1 million in two payments for three speaking engagements, one radio appearance, and one keynote address. The audit claims Favre did not attend any of the events but still collected payment.
ESPN and The Athletic were able to get tax paperwork revealing that between 2018 and 2020, Favre’s charity, Favre 4 Hope, donated over $130,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation. The organization’s original mission was to assist organizations that aid underprivileged and disadvantaged children as well as breast cancer sufferers.
The interest of $228,000 due in October 2021
According to Mississippi Today, Favre was sent a letter from the state auditor’s office that read, in part, “illegal expenditures and unlawful dispositions were made when you knew or had reason to know through the exercise of reasonable diligence that the expenditures were illegal and/or the dispositions were unlawful.”
Even though he returned the first deposits, he was still responsible for $228,000.
“Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to push out this lie that the money was for no-show events is something I cannot stay silent about,” he tweeted on Oct. 29, 2021.
The lawsuit was transferred to the state attorney general’s office since Favre missed the initial deadline to pay the interest.
May – Nov. 2022
In May 2022, Favre was named as one of 38 defendants in a lawsuit brought by the Mississippi Department of Human Services. His lawyer, Eric Herschmann, submitted a dismissal request on November 28.
The petition states, “It is apparent that MDHS has sued Favre, a Mississippi and national celebrity, in an effort to deflect responsibility for its own egregious wrongdoing in allowing $94 million of its public funds to be misspent — funds for which MDHS itself admits it was ‘exclusively responsible.'”
“There is no factual or legal basis to include Favre in this lawsuit,” the lawyers said, “or for the torrent of the unjustified negative publicity concerning Favre that MDHS has outrageously instigated — publicity that properly should be directed at MDHS, not Favre.”
In a lawsuit seeking reimbursement of misappropriated welfare money, the Mississippi Department of Human Services abandoned its demand for Favre to pay $1.1 million on December 5.
The office confirmed that he had refunded the money. But now there’s a new $5 million lawsuit against Favre and a college sports charity.
Favre allegedly has not reimbursed the Mississippi Community Education Center for the money “that he orchestrated” to be paid to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation for the construction of a volleyball facility at his alma mater and the same school where his daughter played volleyball, according to a Dec. 5 court filing by Human Services.
As per Mississippi Today, the claim has been amended to include the athletic foundation, a lobbyist, two ex-attorneys for MDHS, and a virtual reality business as defendants.
Former NFL players Pat McAfee and Shannon Sharpe, who are now television personalities, as well as Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, were named as defendants in a defamation case filed by Favre on February 9 in Hinds County Circuit Court.
According to Favre’s complaint filed in Hinds County Circuit Court, “Shad White, the State Auditor of Mississippi, has carried out an outrageous media campaign of malicious and false accusations against Brett Favre — the Hall of Fame quarterback and native son of Mississippi,” in an obvious attempt to use Favre’s fame for political gain.
In a Twitter post, McAfee claimed to have been formally served with the civil case filing form on February 26 and included an image of its cover sheet.
“It’s official, I’ve been sued by Brett Favre,” McAfee remarked on his broadcast. To this, White’s office responded that “everything Auditor White has said about this case is true and is backed by years of audit work by the professionals at the Office of the State Auditor.” Sharpe has not made any statements to the press.
You can read Shad White’s full report at the link in his tweet below:
JUST IN: Brett Favre is suing Missisisppi State Auditor Shad White, accusing the Republican official of “defamation.”
He accuses White of carrying out an “outrageous media campaign of malicious and false accusations” over Mississippi’s welfare scandal.https://t.co/SBMGaxGnHk
— Ashton Pittman 🏳️🌈 (@ashtonpittman) February 9, 2023
In response to the revised demand against him made by the state of Mississippi in December, Favre’s attorneys once again filed paperwork on February 10 seeking their client’s discharge from the litigation.
To deflect attention from their own mismanagement of public monies, Favre’s attorneys claimed in court documents that the Mississippi Department of Human Services had taken action against Favre and then vilified him.
Three ex-professional wrestlers are among the other notable people named in the case against the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The lawsuit claims that Ted DiBiase Sr., a former wrestler and member of the WWE Hall of Fame known as “The Million Dollar Man.”
Controlled Heart of David Ministries Inc. and got $1.7 million in welfare grant money in 2017 and 2018 for mentoring advertising and other services. In December of 2020, one of his sons, Brett DiBiase, pled guilty to his involvement in the incident.
Also connected is Marcus Dupree, who was a highly sought-after high school football recruit in the early 1980s. Dupree denied wrongdoing in an interview with ESPN on September 28. In March 2020, Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today wrote about how he used the Marcus Dupree Foundation to pay off the mortgage on his 15-acre ranch, making his name more well-known than Favre’s had been in recent years.
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