Brett Favre sued by Mississippi over welfare misspending

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Brett Favre and three former pro wrestlers are among several people and businesses being sued by the Mississippi Department of Human Services over millions of misspent welfare intended to help poor families.

According to the Associated Press, the defendants are accused in the lawsuit of squandering more than $20 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program, part of what Mississippi Auditor Shad White has described as the largest public corruption case in the state in at least 20 years.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in state court in Jackson, Miss., came less than two weeks after Nancy New and her son, Zachary, pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with the misspending. Both New and her son, who ran a nonprofit group and education company in the state, agreed to testify against others.

New and her son, along with former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis and three other people, were charged in mid-2020, accused of misusing welfare money on things like drug rehabilitation in Malibu, Calif., for former pro wrestler Brett DiBiase. DiBiase, along with his father Ted DiBiase Sr. and brother Ted DiBiase Jr., are defendants in the lawsuit filed Monday.

The auditor last year demanded a repayment of $77 million of misspent welfare funds from several people and groups, including $1.1 million paid to Favre, who lives in Mississippi and has not been charged with any wrongdoing. At issue with Favre is the matter of appearances for which he was paid but did not show up. Favre has repaid the money, but White said last fall that he owes $228,000 interest on it. Favre has said he did not know the money he received came from welfare funds and has added that his charity has given millions to help poor children in Mississippi, where he grew up and lives, and Wisconsin, where he became a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

In May 2020, Favre said he had “received money for obligations I didn’t meet” and, in adding that he had begun repayment, tweeted“I love Mississippi and I would never knowingly do anything to take away from those that need it most.”

Monday’s lawsuit alleges that as the largest individual outside investor and stockholder in Prevacus, a Florida-based company attempting to develop a concussion drug, Favre urged CEO Jake VanLandingham to ask Nancy New to use welfare grant money to invest in the company.

He also is accused of hosting a Prevacus stock sales presentation attended by VanLandingham, Davis, Nancy New, Zach New and Ted DiBiase Jr., at his home in January 2019. At that meeting, the suit alleges that an agreement was reached to spend “ substantial” welfare grant money on Prevacus and its corporate affiliate, PreSolMD Inc.

Although the stock was in the names of the News, the suit alleges that Favre, VanLandingham and the companies also benefited financially and demands repayment of $2.1 million in welfare grant money paid to the two companies in 2019.

Attempts by the AP to reach Favre after the lawsuit was filed were unsuccessful.

In a joint statement, Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Gov. Tate Reeves said the “purpose with this suit is to seek justice for the broken trust of the people of Mississippi and recover funds that were misspent.”

DiBiase Sr. is now a Christian evangelist and motivational speaker whose Heart of David Ministries Inc. received $1.7 million in welfare grant money in 2017 and 2018 for mentorship, marketing and other services, according to the lawsuit.

“I applaud the [attorney general’s] team filing this suit and am grateful the state is taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers,” White said (via the AP). “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.”

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