Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre is in hot water for his connection in the Mississippi welfare scandal involving the misappropriation of roughly $77 million in state funds. Favre -- who has not been criminally charged -- has denied knowing that the money he received for different projects was welfare money. Court filings, text messages and tax records show the complexity of the situation.
Favre is currently one of 47 defendants in a civil lawsuit over misspent welfare money. In the most recent development,
Here is some background and a timeline on the situation:
The entire welfare scandal is Mississippi's largest-ever public corruption case. It involves money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a federal program that provides grant funds to states and territories to help families in need. According to the benefits.gov website, "state-administered programs may include childcare assistance, job preparation, and work assistance."
On Sept. 22, 2022, former Executive Director of Mississippi Department of Human Services John Davis pleaded guilty for one count of conspiracy and one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. The Department of Justice said Davis worked with four unnamed co-conspirators.
"MDHS provided federal funds to two nonprofit organizations and then directed the two nonprofit organizations to fraudulently award contracts to various entities and individuals for social services that were never provided," read the release.
Davis was originally going to be sentenced on Feb. 2, 2023, but the U.S. attorney's office for southern Mississippi requested a delay because "sentencing in this case will be complex."
The two nonprofits were the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center (FRC), as stated by a press release by White's office from Oct. 2021. The two organizations ran a statewide program called Families First for Mississippi.
2017-2018 – Volleyball facility
In the summer of 2017, Favre began to ask then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant for funding for a new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi – his alma mater and the same school at which his daughter played volleyball.
Text messages from Aug. 3, 2017 show Favre asking MCEC founder Nancy New about privacy regarding payments to him.
"If you were to pay me, is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?" he asked.
She reassured him that the information would not be made public. The next day, she told him that Bryant was on board with their plan. New and her son, Zach, pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts relating to the scandal earlier in 2022.
Brett Favre: Will the media find out that we're using welfare funds intended to help the poorest residents of America's poorest state to build a volleyball center?— Adam Ganucheau (@GanucheauAdam) September 13, 2022
Nancy New: Nah. Oh yeah, the governor is fully on board!@ayewolfe five years later: https://t.co/rWXHRXISsu pic.twitter.com/wo3QuIYXaY
According an audit,for appearances and speeches at multiple events that he did not attend. Favre said he filmed commercials for the nonprofit organization and that's why he was given the money. The auditor later revealed that Favre's contract stated that he needed to give speeches and a radio advertisement.
2018 - Prevacus
Favre is also tied to a pharmaceutical company that has been named in the Mississippi scandal.
Mississippi Today reported that Favre briefed Bryant on Prevacus, a company in which Favre was a top investor in. Per report, the company received $2.15 million from the scheme. Some text messages from 2018 obtained by Mississippi Today showed that Prevacus founder Jake Vanlandingham and Favre offered Bryant shares of the company. White ended up naming Bryant as the whistleblower that led to high-profile arrests in the welfare scandal.
The drug company, now called Odyssey Health, was said to be developing a nasal spray designed to treat concussions. Six-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Abby Wambach was a member of the sports advisory board, but as of Sept. 29, 2022 she cut ties with the company, per ESPN.
2019 – Indoor football facility
The $5 million volleyball facility was not the only project Favre was interested in at Southern Miss. In July 2019, Favre also appeared to want money for a new football facility at Southern Miss to help recruit quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion Sanders' son, by luring him with an indoor football facility.
"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 ESPN. "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."
ESPN reported that Billy Quin, a lawyer representing Bryant, said a court filing shows that Favre "continued to press for state funds, first from DHS and later in a legislative appropriation."
On July 28, 2019, Bryant texted Favre that the use of the funds is "tightly controlled" and that "any improper use could result in violation of Federal Law. Auditors are currently reviewing the use of these funds."
Just over a month later, on Sept. 4, 2019 texts messages show Favre putting more 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.
After an eight-month long investigation, a 104-page audit showed that the Mississippi Department of Human Services had sent $98 million in federal welfare funds to two nonprofits over the span of three years, and that the majority of that money had been misspent.
Two separate payments totaling $1.1 million were given to Favre Enterprises as payment for three speaking engagements, one radio appearance and one keynote address that Favre was scheduled to make. According to the audit, Favre did not attend any of those events but still received the money.
Tax records obtained by ESPN and The Athletic show that Favre's charity,to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation from 2018 to 2020. The charity was originally created to help charities that provide support to underserved and disabled children and breast cancer patients.
Oct. 2021 – $228,00 in interest
As reported by Mississippi Today, Favre received a letter from the state auditor's office that said "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."
He gave back the initial payments but owed $228,000 in interest.
"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.
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.— Brett Favre (@BrettFavre) October 29, 2021
, which led to the case being turned over to the state attorney general's office.
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. https://t.co/aUCY1FyyJI— Shad White (@shadwhite) November 16, 2021
May - Nov. 2022
The Mississippi Department of Human Servicesin May 2022 against 38 defendants, including Favre. On Nov. 28, his attorney Eric Herschmann filed
"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,'" reads the filing.
"There is no factual or legal basis to include Favre in this lawsuit 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."
On Dec. 5, the Mississippi Department of Human Services dropped its demand of $1.1 million from Favre in a lawsuit that is seeking repayment of misspent welfare money.
The department acknowledged that he has already paid that money back. However, there is a new demand of up to $5 million against Favre and a university sports foundation. The Human Services court filing on Dec. 5 said Favre has not repaid the money "that he orchestrated" for the Mississippi Community Education Center to pay to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation to fund the construction of a volleyball facility at his alma mater -- and the same school at which his daughter played volleyball.
The amended complaint adds the athletic foundation, a lobbyist, two former MDHS attorneys and a virtual reality company as defendants in the lawsuit, as reported by Mississippi Today.
On Feb. 9,in Hinds County Circuit Court against former NFL players and now media personalities Pat McAfee and Shannon Sharpe, as well as Mississippi State Auditor Shad White.
"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 a brazen attempt to leverage the media attention generated by Favre's celebrity to further his own political career," read Favre's complaint filed in Hinds County Circuit Court.
McAffee said he was officially served on Feb. 26 and showed part of the cover sheet of the civil case filing form on a Twitter post.
"It's officially official, I have been sued by Brett Favre," McAffee said in his show.
However,in May, because the former Indianapolis Colts punter lacked personal knowledge into the welfare scandal.
Favre did not let Sharpe or White off the hook. Per Pro Football Talk, Sharpe filed a motion to dismiss in May saying his comments were rhetorical hyperbole and/or statements of opinion, not facts.
White's office replied by saying "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."
Favre's failed attempts at getting name removed from suit
On Feb. 10, lawyers for Favre once again filed papers to seek their client's removal from the lawsuit in direct response to the state of Mississippi revising its demand against him in December. In their filing, Favre's representatives directly accused the Mississippi Department of Human Services of taking action against and subsequently vilifying Favre in order to distract from their own misdeeds in mishandling public funds.
However, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Faye Peterson denied the motion in April and blocked his request for a hearing. The following month, Favre's lawyers then went to the Mississippi Supreme Court to attempt to overturn Peterson's decision.
A panel of three justices denied Favre's removal as a defendant in the civil lawsuit on Aug. 9.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services lawsuit involves other high profile figures including three former pro wrestlers. According to the lawsuit, Ted DiBiase Sr. -- a former wrestler and WWE Hall of Famer known as "The Million Dollar Man" -- ran Heart of David Ministries Inc. and received $1.7 million in welfare grant money in 2017 and 2018 for mentorship, marketing and other services. One of his sons, Brett DiBiase, pleaded guilty to his role in the scandal in December of 2020.
Marcus Dupree, a heavily sought-after football high school recruit in the early '80s, is another person involved. In an interview with ESPN on Sept. 28, Dupree denied allegations of wrong doing. His name has not been in the media as much as Favre's recently, but in March 2020, Anna Wolfe from Mississippi Today published an article about how he used the Marcus Dupree Foundation to cover the mortgage of his 15-acre ranch.