Brett Favre scandal explained: Ex-NFL QB accused of misusing Mississippi state welfare funds

Hall of Famer quarterback Brett Favre is in hot water over his connection to the Mississippi welfare scandal, which involved roughly $77 million in embezzlement. Favre – who has not been criminally charged – has denied knowing the money he received for various projects was welfare money. Court records, SMS and tax records show the complexity of the situation.

On February 9th Favre filed a defamation lawsuit against former NFL players turned media personalities Pat McAfee and Shannon Sharpe, and Mississippi State Examiner Shad White, according to documents acquired by Mississippi Today.

“Shad White, the Mississippi State Examiner, has conducted an egregious media campaign of malicious and false allegations against Brett Favre – Hall of Famer quarterback and Mississippi native son – in a brazen attempt to use the media attention generated by Favre’s celebrity to promote his own.” advance a political career,” reads the complaint, which was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court.

White’s office responded by saying, “Everything that Auditor White has said on this case is true and is supported by years of audit work by the professionals of the Office of the State Comptroller.”

Sharpe has yet to comment publicly, but McAfee responded with a GIF on Twitter.

This is not the only process that Favre has to deal with in connection with the social scandal. On December 5, the Mississippi Department of Human Services dropped its $1.1 million claim from Favre in a court case over the recovery of misinvested welfare payments. Favre was in hot water for receiving money for public appearances he didn’t do, but the department acknowledged he has already repaid that money.

However, there is a new claim of up to $5 million against Favre and a college sports foundation. Human Services’ Dec. 5 court filing says Favre failed to return the money “that he orchestrated” for the Mississippi Community Education Center to pay to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation to help build a Funding volleyball courts at his alma — and the same school his daughter played volleyball at.

The amended lawsuit 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 submitted legal action in May 2022 against 38 accused, including Favre. On November 28, his attorney Eric Herschmann filed a request for dismissal.

“It is evident that MDHS has sued Favre, a Mississippi national celebrity, to deflect responsibility for his own egregious wrongdoing by allowing $94 million of its public funds to be improperly spent – funds that MDHS itself uses admits it was ‘solely responsible,'” the filing reads.

“There is no factual or legal basis to implicate Favre in this lawsuit or for the stream of unwarranted negative publicity about Favre that MDHS has brazenly instigated – publicity that should be directed at MDHS, not Favre.”

The entire social scandal is Mississippi’s largest public corruption case of all time. The funds are from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a federal program that provides states and territories with grant funds to help families in need. According to the website, “state-administered programs may include childcare assistance, pre-employment and employment assistance.”

On September 22, former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one charge of theft related to programs that receive federal funds. The Justice Department said Davis worked with four unnamed co-conspirators. Davis will be sentenced on February 2, 2023.

“MDHS provided federal funding to two nonprofit organizations and then directed the two nonprofit organizations to fraudulently award contracts to various agencies and individuals for social services that were never provided,” the press release reads.

The two nonprofits were the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center (FRC), according to an October 2021 press release from White’s office. The two organizations ran a statewide program called Families First for Mississippi.

In the summer of 2017, Favre began soliciting then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant for funding for a new volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Text messages dated August 3, 2017 show Favre questioning MCEC founder Nancy New about privacy related to payments to him.

“If you paid me, can the media still find out where it came from and how much?” he asked.

She assured him that the information would not be made public. The next day she told him that Bryant agreed with her plan. New and her son Zach pleaded guilty to 13 felonies related to the scandal in early 2022.

According to an audit Favre received $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018 for appearances and speeches at several events he did not attend. Favre said he shot commercials for the nonprofit and that’s why he got the money. The auditor later revealed that Favre’s contract required him to give speeches and a radio commercial.

Favre returned the initial payments, but as of Nov. 29, he still owes $228,000 in interest, as confirmed by CNN.

“Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take any funds intended to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to spread this lie that the money was for no-show events is something about which I cannot remain silent. ‘ he tweeted on Oct. 29, 2021.

Favre missed the original deadline to pay the interestresulting in the case being referred to the Attorney General’s Office.

The $5 million volleyball facility wasn’t the only project Favre was interested in. In July 2019, Favre also appeared to want money for a new soccer facility in Southern Miss to recruit quarterback Shedeur Sanders, son of Deion Sanders, by luring him with an indoor soccer facility.

“As I suspected, Deion’s son asked where the interior was and I said [we] but have none [we] hoping to break ground in less than 2 years,” wrote Favre Bryant, per ESPN. “Well this won’t happen without your help/dedication!!! I know we need to complete the vball first and with that I’m asking a lot and I 100% believe that if you can do this Nancy can reach many and help them in the recruitment 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, an attorney representing Bryant, said a court filing shows Favre “continued to press for government funds, first from DHS and later in a statutory appropriation.”

On July 28, 2019, Bryant Favre wrote that use of the funds is “strictly controlled” and that “any improper use could result in a violation of federal law. Auditors are currently examining the use of these funds.”

A little over a month later, on September 4, 2019, text messages show Favre putting more pressure on Bryant.

“We don’t take no for an answer! You are a Southern Miss alumni and people need to know that you are also a supporter of the university,” Favre wrote.

“We will make it. That was a great meeting. But we have to obey the law. I’m too old for federal prison.” Bryant replied, adding a sunglasses emoji.

Tax filings obtained by ESPN and The Athletic on Sept. 28 show that Favre’s charity Favre 4 Hope has grossed more than $130,000 from 2018 to 2020 to the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation. The charity was originally founded to help charities that support underserved and disabled children and breast cancer patients.

Favre is also linked to a pharmaceutical company 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. The company received $2.15 million from the program, according to the report. Some of the text messages obtained by Mississippi Today showed that Prevacus founders Jake Vanlandingham and Favre Bryant had offered shares in the company. White eventually named Bryant the whistleblower who led to high-profile arrests in the social scandal.

The pharmaceutical company, now called Odyssey Health, is said to have developed a nasal spray to treat concussions. Six-time U.S. Soccer Player of the Year Abby Wambach was a member of the sports advisory board but severed ties with the company on Sept. 29, according to ESPN.

In September, two of Favre’s weekly shows on ESPN Milwaukee and SiriusXM were suspended due to his involvement in the program. The following month, Favre spoke out against claims about his involvement in the Social Fund scandal, saying he had been “unfairly smeared” by the media.

Other high-profile figures are involved in the Mississippi Department of Human Services lawsuit, 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 funds for mentoring in 2017 and 2018, Marketing and Other Services. One of his sons, Brett DiBiase, pleaded guilty to his role in the scandal in December 2020.

Marcus Dupree, a highly sought-after high school football recruit in the early ’80s, is another person involved. In a Sept. 28 interview with ESPN, Dupree denied allegations of wrongdoing. His name hasn’t been in the media as much as Favre’s lately, but in March 2020, Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe published an article about how he used the Marcus Dupree Foundation to help mortgage his 15-acre ranch. Brett Favre scandal explained: Ex-NFL QB accused of misusing Mississippi state welfare funds

Chris Estrada

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