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. 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.
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. Favre had been in hot water for receiving money for public appearances that he did not make, but 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 matter -- 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.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services filed ain 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."
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, 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. Davis will be sentenced on Feb. 2, 2023.
"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.
The two nonprofits were the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center (FRC), as stated by a press release by State Auditor Shad White's office from Oct. 2021. The two organizations ran a statewide program called Families First for Mississippi.
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.
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.
Favre gave back the initial payments, but as confirmed by CNN, he still owes $228,000 in interest as of Nov. 29.
"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
The $5 million volleyball facility was not the only project Favre was interested in. In July 2019, Favre also appeared to want money 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.
Tax records obtained by ESPN and The Athletic on Sept. 28 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.
Favre is also tied to a pharmaceutical company that has been named in the Mississippi scandal. In April 2022, 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 of the text messages 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 she has cut ties with the company, per ESPN.
In September, two of Favre's weekly shows on ESPN Milwaukee and SiriusXM were suspended due to his involvement in the scheme. The following month, Favre spoke out against the claims of his involvement in the welfare fund scandal and said he has been "unjustly smeared" by the media.
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.