The Mississippi Department of Human Services is suing 38 people or businesses, including retired NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, for spending millions of dollars on welfare intended to help the state most poor in the country, according to several reports.
The lawsuit, filed in Hinds County Circuit Court, seeks to recover more than $20 million in cash that it claims the defendants “wasted” from the anti-poverty temporary relief program for needy families.
“I don’t understand these people,” attorney Brad Pigott, who drafted the lawsuit, told Mississippi Today. “What kind of person would decide that the money the law required to be spent on helping the poorest people in the poorest state would be better spent being distributed by them to their own families, to their own pet projects and their own favorite celebrities?”
The lawsuit was filed just weeks after the mother-son duo of Nancy New, 69, and Zachary New, 39, pleaded guilty to criminal charges for wasteful spending. The duo agreed to testify against others in the corruption case, which auditor Shad White said was Mississippi’s largest in two decades.
They ran a nonprofit group and an education corporation in the state, which received tens of millions of dollars through contracts with the Mississippi Department of Social Services; however, much of the money was illegally funneled to other nonprofits or contractors, considered “second-tier” recipients of the department, the outlet reported.
Some of the welfare money was spent on the California rehab of former professional wrestler Brett DiBiase. He was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with his father and brother, Ted DiBiase Sr. and Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr.
In 2020, Nancy and Zachary, along with former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis, and three others, were charged in state court with unnecessary expenses.
Last year, White demanded repayment of $77 million in misdirected social funds, including $1.1 million paid to Favre, who lives in Mississippi and has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
White accused Favre of being paid for speeches and not showing up. Favre said he was unaware the money came from welfare funds and noted that his charity had provided millions in cash to help poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.
Monday’s lawsuit claims Favre was once the largest individual outside investor and shareholder in the Florida-based company Prevacus, which was trying to develop a concussion drug. The lawsuit claims that in December 2018, Favre hoped Prevacus CEO Jake VanLandingham would ask Nancy to use welfare money to invest in the company.
In January 2019, Favre hosted a Prevacus stock sale presentation at his home attended by many defendants, where an agreement was reached to spend “substantial” social grants for Prevacus and its affiliate PreSolMD Inc.
The lawsuit says the action was in the names of Nancy and Zach, but was also for the financial benefit of Favre, VanLandingham and the two companies. He is demanding repayment of $2.1 million in social grants that were improperly paid to the two companies that year.
Favre’s longtime agent, James “Bus” Cook, did not immediately respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.
The planned filing comes months after the auditor’s office handed the claims for reimbursement of misspent funds to the attorney general’s office.
“I applaud the team filing this lawsuit and am grateful that the state is taking another step toward justice for taxpayers,” White said. “We will continue to work alongside our federal partners – who have had access to all of our evidence for over two years – to ensure the matter is fully investigated.”
Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Governor Tate Reeves said in a joint statement Monday, “Our goal with this lawsuit is to seek justice for the shattered trust of the people of Mississippi and to recover funds that were misspent.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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