September 28, 2022

EMBEZZLEMENT: Why Brett Favre had to repay hundreds of thousands to Mississippi poverty fund

EMBEZZLEMENT: Why Brett Favre had to repay hundreds of thousands to Mississippi poverty fund

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Former NFL player and Superbowl Champion Brett Favre received over $1 million from the State of Mississippi’s low-income welfare funds in the largest embezzlement scheme in state history. Funneled through the non-profit group Families First Mississippi, run by private school operator Nancy New, Favre was reportedly paid $1.1 million for speaking engagements he never made.

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Though the famous former quarterback hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White – a Republican – sent demand letters to Favre and nine others in early October of 2021, giving the recipients of the ill-gotten gains 30 days to pay the money back. Favre paid back $600,000 by Oct. 12, 2021, after receiving White’s letter, “but not the full $828,000 White had demanded, which included interest,” the Mississippi Free Press reported.

White said in a statement:

“A little over 30 days ago, my office issued demands on several individuals ordering them to repay misspent welfare money. As I said at the time, if any of those individuals failed to repay the money, the demands will be forwarded to the attorney general’s office, which is in charge of enforcing the demands in court.”

After news broke in 2020 that Nancy New had mishandled funds belonging to the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program for low-income families and was arrested, the former Green Bay Packer denied any wrongdoing and pledged to return every penny – except he didn’t. Favre paid the state $500,000 in May 2020. It’d be another 17 months before he made a $100,000 payment – still short $228,000 in interest.

I was unaware that the money being dispersed was paid for out of funds not intended for that purpose, and because of that I am refunding the full amount back to Mississippi,” Favre claimed

Over $77 million was stolen from Mississippi’s most vulnerable in one of the poorest states in the union. Facilitator John Davis was ordered to pay back nearly $100 million, including interest. As Director of  Mississippi’s Department of Human Services, Davis re-routed the funds that were meant for poor Mississippiansand funneled it instead to Nancy New and her “charities.”

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According to the Mississippi Free Press, in 2018 Favre allegedly facilitated a meeting between DHS Director Davis, then-Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, and leaders of the pharmaceutical company Prevacus – for which he was a spokesman. The drug company was supposed to manufacture a concussion drug in the state, which it never did.

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Also involved in the deal was Families First founder Nancy New – who used over $2 million in TANF funds to invest in the company.

The investigation was turned over to the Attorney General’s office – a seeming conflict of interest since Mississippi AG Lynn Fitch partnered with Favre for an ad in April 2020 in support of Covid-19 stay at home orders.

Favre denied the allegations by White that he was a “no-show” and was paid for engagements he didn’t attend. This led to a Twitter spat between the football legend and state auditor “I would never accept money for no-show appearances, as the state of Mississippi auditor, Shad White, claims,” Favre wrote.

The GOP auditor hit back.

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Less than a week ago, NBC News reported that the FBI interviewed the retired NFL quarterback in regard to the welfare scam.

“His lawyer, Bud Holmes, said (Favre) did nothing wrong and never understood he was paid with money intended to help poor children,” NBC reported. “Holmes acknowledged that the FBI had questioned Favre in the case, a fact that hasn’t previously been reported.”

Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) has called for an investigation into former Governor Phil Bryant’s role in the plot to defraud Mississippi’s poorest families. In July, Bryant was subpoenaed over a $5,000,000 volleyball stadium built at the University of Mississippi with $5 million of TANF funds – a project for which Favre reportedly lobbied.

I reached out to Democratic congressional nominee Shuwaski Young, who’s running to unseat Republican incumbent Michael Guest in the state’s 3rd district where nearly 20% of the district’s residents live in poverty and over 60% are minorities.

Mississippi has a long history of leaders not serving the interests of those who need help the most, and those folks are usually Black. Instead, Republicans have continually sought to expand the wealth of the good ole boys. I’m not surprised by the recent finding on this matter but I am appalled,” Young said.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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