Mississippi State Auditor Shad White has referred a case to the state’s attorney general involving NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre and nine others who received millions in welfare dollars that should have gone to help the state’s poorest. The famed quarterback and Mississippi native received $1.1 million in funds from a nonprofit whose founder has since been indicted on state and federal charges for their alleged role in the largest embezzlement scheme in state history.
The Republican auditor sent demand letters to Favre and the others last month, giving them 30 days to pay the money back. The NFL star, a Kiln, Miss., native who now lives in Hattiesburg,, paid back $600,000 on Oct. 12, 2021, after receiving White’s letter, but not the full $828,000 White had demanded, which included interest. Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, did not respond to a request for comment.
“A little over 30 days ago, my office issued demands on several individuals ordering them to repay misspent welfare money,” White said in a statement on Tuesday. “As I said at the time, if any of those individuals failed to repay the money, the demands will be forwarded to the attorney general’s office, which is in charge of enforcing the demands in court.”
Between 2016 and 2019, Favre received $1.1 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Funds from Families First Mississippi, a non profit run by private-school operator Nancy New. Then-Mississippi State Department of Human Services Director John Davis allegedly facilitated the transfer of the TANF funds to New’s nonprofit in what the auditor has described as the largest welfare-fraud case in state history.
‘I Am Refunding the Full Amount’
After news broke in early 2020 that New had been arrested for allegedly using stolen TANF funds for her organization’s activities, including paying Favre, the former Green Bay Packers quarterback said he was unaware of the scheme and pledged to pay the money back. He has not been accused of a crime.
“I was unaware that the money being dispersed was paid for out of funds not intended for that purpose, and because of that I am refunding the full amount back to Mississippi,” Favre said in May 2020 as he returned $500,000. He did not make another payment until White sent the demand letters in October 2021.
Since the demand letters went out, a spokesman for White’s office told the Mississippi Free Press last night, “no additional payment (has been) made outside of that $600,000 from Favre,” including from the other individuals or entities who received demands to repay the TANF funds. Those additional individuals or entities include:
- Former WWE wrestler Ted Dibiase Sr., known as “The Million Dollar Man,” who White said must pay back $722,299 that his Christian ministry, Heart of David Ministries, received
- DiBiase’s son, Ted DiBiase, Jr., a retired WWE wrestler who White said owes $3.9 million
- DiBiase’s other retired WWE wrestler son, Brett DiBiase, who White said owes $225,950; Brett DiBiase was among six indicted in early 2020 and admitted to his role in defrauding the state’s welfare system as part of a December 2020 plea deal
- Nancy New, the nonprofit operator of Families First Mississippi and the Mississippi Community Education Center who is facing embezzlement charges, owes $2,589,
- Zach New, Nancy New’s son and fellow private-school operator, who White said owes $74,261; he was among six indicted in the case last year
- The Marcus DuPree Foundation, owned by the former NFL player of the same name, which White said owes $789,534
- Davis, the former DHS director, for $96.3 million, including interest, “for his role authorizing over $77 million in illegal TANF spending,” according to White
- Davis’ nephew, Austin Smith, for $378,791
- JTS Enterprises and Transformational Ventures, controlled by Davis’ brother-in-law, Brian Jeff Smith, for $674,715
AG Fitch Defers Case to Private Attorney
The auditor’s office said that recuperating the funds is now up to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office, who can do so through civil litigation. But in his statement on Tuesday, White said his “understanding is the Attorney General and the Department of Human Services have given authority to a private attorney to recoup the misspent money.”
“We have been in contact with the attorney and will provide any information he needs,” the statement says.
The Mississippi Free Press obtained a copy of the contract, which is dated Aug. 1, 2021, and is between the Mississippi State Department of Human Services and Pigott Law, P.A. Brad Pigott, a Jackson lawyer who once served as the U.S. attorney general for Mississippi’s Southern District, owns that firm.
“The Pigott Law Firm will review relevant documents, meet with any and all officials, witnesses, and representatives as deemed necessary for representation of the Mississippi Department of Human Services regarding the pursuit of civil litigation against the recently-indicted principals (and related parties) of the Mississippi Community Education Center (‘MCEC’) and the Family Resource Center of Mississippi (‘FRC’), and persons (or other entities),” the contract says.
It also says that the Pigott Law Firm must copy the attorney general’s Contract with AG and DHS on correspondences and “submit a minimum of quarterly status reports to MDHS and the Attorney General’s designee(s) on the progress of the case.”
The contract does not include details on how Pigott’s firm will recuperate the money on behalf of the state, nor does it offer a monetary rate for how much the firm will receive in exchange for its services.
Asked why Fitch would hire Pigott to handle the nonpayments stemming from the DHS fraud case, White’s office said they did not know and that it was a question for the attorney general’s office, not the auditor. Neither Fitch’s office nor Pigott’s firm has responded to requests for comment since yesterday.
Fitch has had positive ties to Favre in the past. During the early pandemic era in April 2020, she said she was “excited to team up with NFL and Mississippi legend Brett Favre to help spread the word on the importance of looking out for each other by staying at home.” They produced a video ad that she shared on social-media networks.
Ex-Gov. Bryant, Favre Discussed Drug Company
The attorney general is far from the only Mississippi Republican with past ties to Favre. The quarterback publicly supported the current governor, Tate Reeves, during his 2019 campaign. Favre’s family also donated to Reeves’ campaign.
In March 2020, Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe reported that Favre and Bryant had discussed bringing Prevacus, a Florida pharmaceutical company in which Favre was invested and for which he served as a spokesman, to Mississippi to manufacture a concussion drug. The former NFL star allegedly helped facilitate a December 2018 meeting between Bryant, Prevacus leaders and officials at the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
Prevacus did not come to Mississippi, but weeks after that apparent meeting, prosecutors allege that the News took $2.15 million from the stash of illicit welfare dollars that Davis had directed to their nonprofits and made personal investments in the company and an affiliate. Investigators have not accused Prevacus, the company’s leaders or affiliates, Bryant or Favre with any wrongdoing. Giacomo Bologna and Luke Ramseth reported a timeline of the Prevacus saga in the Clarion-Ledger in April 2020.
White: ‘These Are Lies, @BrettFavre’
The payments Auditor White demanded Favre return last month are not related to the Prevacus investments. White says the $1.1 million Favre received from Families First Mississippi were to film ads and give speeches. The auditor’s office says Favre never gave the speeches, however. Favre disputes that claim and has said that the contract only involved ads—not speeches.
“As I have said before, I would never accept money for no-show appearances, as the state of Mississippi auditor, @ShadWhite, claims,” Favre, who has previously denied that the contract required him to give speeches, tweeted on Oct. 29, 2021. “I am doing all that I can to support this investigation to make things right for the people of Mississippi and I have shared all that I know, which is that I was paid for three years of commercials that I did, and I paid taxes on the money, as I should.
“Of course the money was returned because I would never knowingly take funds meant to help our neighbors in need, but for Shad White to continue to push out this lie that the money was for no-show events is something I cannot stay silent about. Despite all efforts to seek clarification with the auditor, he has never granted a call back or a meeting with me, but has instead only repeatedly run to the media. Prioritizing sensational headlines over seeking truth is doing a disservice to the people of our great state who deserve answers and a resolution.”
White responded to Favre’s tweets later that morning.
“These are lies, @BrettFavre. I am not going to hide how much you were paid, why you were paid, or conduct back room meetings to make this go away,” the state auditor tweeted. “The contract that justified the payment of $1.1 million in welfare money to you said you were to ‘speak at three (3) total speaking engagements,’ ‘provide one (1) radio spot during the contract period,’ and ‘provide one (1) keynote speaking engagement.’ The CPA for Favre Enterprises confirmed this was your contract.
“You did not give the speeches. You have acknowledged this in statements to my agents. To suggest my office has not met with you is a lie as well. You have met with agents who work for me. They showed you the contract. They showed you the emails confirming the contract quoted above is how you were paid. To suggest I have only communicated this to you via the media is wrong. I’m doing my job—that’s it. You can continue to use your megaphone as a celebrity to drown out the facts, but it will not change the facts.”
Favre’s agent did not respond to requests last month to discuss the exchange. The former quarterback has not tweeted since.
Editor’s Note: Attorney Brad Pigott has previously donated to the Mississippi Free Press, which had no influence on this reporting.