The Mississippi Department of Human Services on Monday sued retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre, three former pro wrestlers and several other people and businesses to try to recover millions of misspent welfare dollars that were meant to help some of the poorest people in the United States.
The lawsuit says the defendants “squandered” more than $ 20m in money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families anti-poverty program.
The suit was filed in less than two weeks after a mother and son who ran a non-profit group and an education company in Mississippi pleaded guilty to state criminal charges tied to the misspending. Nancy New, 69, and Zachary New, 39, agreed to testify against others in what state auditor Shad White has called Mississippi’s largest public corruption case in the past two decades.
In early 2020, Nancy and Zachary New, former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis and three other people were charged in state court, with prosecutors saying welfare money had been misspent on items such as drug rehabilitation in Malibu, California, for former pro wrestler Brett DiBiase.
DiBiase is a defendant in the lawsuit filed on Monday is their father and brother, Ted DiBiase Sr. and Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr., who were also pro wrestlers.
Ted DiBiase Sr. was known as the “The Million Dollar Man” while wrestling. He is a Christian evangelist and a motivational speaker, and he ran Heart of David Ministries Inc., which received $ 1.7m in welfare grant money in 2017 and 2018 for mentorship, marketing and other services, according to the lawsuit.
White last year demanded repayment of $ 77m of misspent welfare funds from several people and groups, including $ 1.1m paid to Favre, who lives in Mississippi. Favre has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
White said Favre was paid for speeches but did not show up. Favre has repaid the money, but White said in October that Favre still owed $ 228,000 in interest. In a Facebook post when they repaid the first $ 500,000, Favre said they didn’t know the money they received came from welfare funds. They also said his charity had provided millions of dollars to poor children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.
The lawsuit filed on Monday said Favre at one time was the largest individual outside the investor and stockholder of Prevacus, a Florida-based company that was trying to develop a concussion drug. The suit said that in December 2018, Favre urged Prevacus CEO Jake VanLandingham to ask Nancy New to use welfare grant money to invest in the company.
The suit also said Favre hosted a Prevacus stock sales 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 “substantial” welfare grant money in Prevacus and later in its corporate affiliate PreSolMD Inc.
The suit said the stock was in the names of Nancy New and Zach New but was also for the financial benefit of Favre, VanLandingham and the two companies. The lawsuit demands repayment of $ 2.1m in welfare grant money that was improperly paid to the two companies in 2019.