Ex-Mississippi official pleads guilty to state, federal charges in welfare fraud scheme

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John Davis, erstwhile  manager  of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, leaves the courthouse Thursday.

CNN  — 

A erstwhile apical authorities authoritative successful Mississippi pleaded blameworthy Thursday to authorities and national charges successful transportation to an embezzlement strategy that auditors accidental misused millions of payment dollars, including funneling funds into projects linked to salient Mississippians similar erstwhile NFL prima Brett Favre.

Officials from the US Department of Justice and the Hinds County District Attorney Office announced the one-time caput of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, John Davis, had pleaded blameworthy to 2 national counts and 18 authorities counts.

Davis, 54, served arsenic the manager of the Human Services Department astatine the clip authorities auditors accidental much than $70 cardinal of national payment funds were being misused, including being spent connected officials’ idiosyncratic expenses and by charities connected projects unrelated to the payment program.

The DOJ said Davis and “his co-conspirators” utilized national funds “for their idiosyncratic usage and benefit.”

“At Davis’s direction, MDHS provided national funds to 2 nonprofit organizations and past directed the 2 nonprofit organizations to fraudulently grant contracts to assorted entities and individuals for societal services that were ne'er provided,” national prosecutors said successful a quality release.

On Thursday, the erstwhile authorities authoritative pleaded blameworthy to 2 national charges: 1 number of conspiracy to perpetrate ligament fraud and to perpetrate theft concerning programs receiving national funds and 1 number of theft concerning programs receiving national funds, the DOJ announced. He could beryllium sentenced to up to 5 years successful situation connected the conspiracy number and 10 years connected the theft count.

Davis besides pleaded blameworthy to 5 counts of conspiracy and 13 counts of fraud successful Hinds County, District Attorney Jody E. Owens said successful a tweet Thursday.

“Davis was 1 of six Defendants arrested and aboriginal indicted successful 2020 successful 1 of the largest embezzlement schemes successful Mississippi history,” Owens said.

The immense fraud strategy was uncovered successful 2020 by a authorities audit of national funds allocated to authorities agencies. When State Auditor Shad White announced the finding, helium called the strategy “the astir egregious misspending my unit person seen successful their careers.”

The eight-month agelong probe showed that the section gave much than $98 cardinal to 2 non-profits: The Mississippi Community Education Center and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi. Of the $98 million, $94 cardinal was “questioned,” meaning it was either definitively misspent oregon auditors were incapable to find whether it was legally spent.

The authorities auditor has said around $77 million of wealth was intended for a authorities payment program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Last week White told CNN, “I deliberation what you had was a batch of wealth being pushed done a authorities bureau that decided to past funnel that wealth to a nonprofit. There conscionable were not a ton of checks connected however that nonprofit was spending this wealth until the auditor’s bureau started digging into it.

“And then, you know, going different measurement guardant into the future, I deliberation that it’s important that we amusement the nationalist that determination are going to beryllium consequences for this.”

According to investigators, much than $4 cardinal was utilized to a physique a Brett Favre-backed volleyball halfway astatine the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s alma mater, and wherever his girl played the athletics astatine the time.

The authorities of Mississippi filed a civilian suit against much than 35 radical and entities, including Pro Football Hall of Famer, earlier this year.

Text messages were released past week arsenic portion of that civilian suit by attorneys for the non-profit founded by Nancy New, who has already pleaded blameworthy to charges related to the payment funds scheme. They showed Favre discussing getting wealth done New’s nonprofit and expressing his emotion for Davis aft being told of the funding, arsenic good arsenic meetings with Davis and erstwhile Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant astir the funding.

Bryant and Favre person not been criminally charged with immoderate wrongdoing astatine this time. Bryant is besides not named arsenic a suspect successful the civilian suit.

The erstwhile quarterback’s lawyer told CNN that Favre, who retired aft the 2010 play and a 20-year NFL career, did not cognize payment funds were being utilized for the volleyball halfway and that his fundraising efforts for the volleyball halfway were honorable.

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