John Davis, the former head of Mississippi’s welfare agency, has pleaded guilty to charges he faced surrounding a massive welfare fraud case that also implicates retired quarterback Brett Favre. Davis made a plea agreement to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which could help officially incriminate the NFL hall-of-famer.
Davis served as the director of Mississippi’s Department of Human Services from 2016 through 2019. Front Office Sports (FOS) reported that he pleaded guilty on Thursday, Sept. 22, for his role in a scheme in which over $70 million in welfare funds earmarked for the country’s poorest state were misappropriated.
According to court documents, during Davis’ tenure, he knowingly diverted federal funds for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and other programs to help enrich himself and his co-conspirators.
“The purpose of the conspiracy was for DAVIS, the Co-Conspirators, and others to obtain through fraud and to divert federal funds intended for needy families and low-income individuals for their personal use and beneﬁt,” the court documents state.
If Davis corroborates accusations against former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Brett Favre, it could lead the two, which have yet to be charged, to be indicted.
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Thus far, it has been revealed that Favre accepted $1.1 million in payments from Mississippi in 2017 and 2018 for motivational speeches he never made. The payments came out of the state’s federal welfare funds. Though Favre paid the money back, he never repaid the $228,000 in interest fees demanded by the auditor.
Brett Favre is also accused of knowingly lobbying for welfare funds intended for low-income families to help build a new volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi. The school received $5 million in welfare funds for the project.
“If Favre gets indicted – and I expect he will be – one of the counts will surely be wire fraud,” Matt Tympanick, a veteran federal criminal defense attorney, told FOS. “The text messages show that he was asking if you pay me money would anybody be able to determine who paid me and how much?”
Though the co-conspirators are not named in the court documents, most believe they include Nancy New, 69, and her son, Zach New; Bryant and Favre.
In April, The News both pleaded guilty to various charges including wire fraud, racketeering, bribing a public official and more, reported Mississippi Today.
New is a former educator, prominent fundraiser and nonprofit founder, while Zach serves as the vice-president of his mother’s nonprofit, the Mississippi Community Education Center.
New’s center and another nonprofit, the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, were both selected by Davis to lead an expansion of an anti-poverty program called Families First for Mississippi. The organizations funneled many of the misappropriated welfare funds to various projects.
“While this case is far from over, John Davis’ guilty plea is a resounding victory for the State of Mississippi and its citizens,” Hinds County District Attorney Jody E. Owens told FOS.
Davis is expected to serve 10 years, as opposed to the 32 he was facing, as a part of his plea deal.
“Today marks an important day for justice for Mississippians in the massive welfare scheme that my office uncovered more than two years ago,” Mississippi State Auditor Shad White said in a statement. “District Attorney Jody Owens and his team did an incredible job putting a stop to the flow of money to the fraudsters who took from the poorest in the state.”
PHOTO: NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre speaks with reporters, Oct. 17, 2018 in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) / Federal agents load a vehicle with evidence, Oct. 19, 2021, in New York. (AP John Minchillo)