Mississippi sues Brett Favre, wrestler, for wasting welfare

Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre addresses the media October 17, 2018 in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The Mississippi Department of Human Services on Monday sued retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre and three former pro wrestlers, along with several other people and companies, in an attempt to recover millions of mis-spent welfare dollars that the some of them should help the poorest people in the US

The lawsuit alleges the defendants “wasted” more than $20 million in funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program.

The lawsuit was filed less than two weeks after a mother and son, who run a nonprofit group and educational enterprise in Mississippi, pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the misspending. Nancy New, 69, and Zachary New, 39, agreed to testify against others in what State Examiner Shad White has called Mississippi’s largest public corruption case in the past two decades.

In early 2020, Nancy New, Zachary New, former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis, and three others were arraigned in state court, with prosecutors saying Social Security funds were misspent on things like drug rehabilitation in Malibu, California became former professional wrestler Brett DiBiase.

DiBiase is a defendant in the lawsuit, filed Monday in Hinds County Circuit Court, along with his father and brother, who were also professional wrestlers, Ted DiBiase Sr. and Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr.

Ted DiBiase Sr. was known in wrestling as “The Million Dollar Man”. He is a Christian evangelist and motivational speaker and ran Heart of David Ministries Inc., which the lawsuit says received $1.7 million in welfare funds in 2017 and 2018 for mentoring, marketing and other services.

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Nancy New, who ran a private education company in Mississippi with her son Zachary, seen here in court Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

White last year demanded that several individuals and groups return $77 million in misinvested welfare payments, including $1.1 million paid to Favre, who lives in Mississippi. Favre has not been charged with any criminal misconduct.

White said Favre was paid to speak but did not show up. Favre repaid the money, but White said in October that Favre still owed $228,000 in interest. In a Facebook post as he repaid the first $500,000, Favre said he was unaware that the money he received came from social funds. He also said his charity has given millions of dollars to poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Months ago, the Office of the Comptroller turned over claims for the recovery of missed welfare payments to the Mississippi Attorney General’s office for enforcement. White said in a statement Monday he knew prosecutors would eventually file a lawsuit.

“I applaud the team that filed this lawsuit and am grateful that the state is taking another step toward taxpayer justice,” White said. “We will continue to work with our federal partners – who have been given access to all of our evidence for more than two years – to ensure the case is fully investigated.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday, says Favre was once the largest single outside investor and shareholder in Prevacus, a Florida-based company trying to develop a concussion drug. The lawsuit alleges that in December 2018, Favre asked Prevacus CEO Jake VanLandingham to ask Nancy New to use welfare funds to invest in the company.

Zachary New, who ran a private education company in Mississippi with his mother Nancy New, pleads guilty to charges of misappropriating public funds Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

The lawsuit also said that Favre hosted a Prevacus stock sale presentation at his home in January 2019, attended by VanLandingham, Davis, Nancy New, Zach New and Ted DiBiase Jr., and that an agreement was reached to spend “significant” welfare money on Prevacus and later in its subsidiary PreSolMD Inc.

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The lawsuit said the stock was in the names of Nancy New and Zach New, but also benefited Favre, VanLandingham and the two companies financially. The lawsuit seeks restitution of $2.1 million in welfare funds wrongly paid to the two companies in 2019.

The Associated Press called a number once listed for Favre Enterprises Monday, and a record said it was no longer operational.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Gov. Tate Reeves said in a joint statement Monday, “Our purpose in this lawsuit is to seek justice for the broken trust of the people of Mississippi and to recover funds misspent.”

Davis was elected head of the Department of Human Services by the then governor in 2016. Phil Bryant – who, like Reeves, Fitch and White, is a Republican. Davis retired in July 2019 and is awaiting trial on criminal abuse charges.

Brett DiBiase pleaded guilty to false testimony in December 2020. He said in court documents that he filed documents and received full payment for the work, which he failed to complete. He agreed to pay $48,000 in compensation and his conviction was stayed.

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