Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year after the state of Mississippi filed a civil lawsuit accusing him and several others of misusing millions of dollars of welfare funds.
Favre was specifically accused of receiving welfare money in exchange for speeches he never made and of helping to funnel grant funds to companies he’d invested in.
More recently, text messages uncovered because of the civil lawsuit linked the quarterback to an effort to use state welfare money to improve the sports facilities at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Favre has repaid some of the money that fueled the legal battle, but he has not admitted to purposefully manipulating a welfare program.
“In a Facebook post when he repaid the first $500,000, Favre said he did not know the money he received came from welfare funds,” The Associated Press reported in May.
What’s happening in the Mississippi welfare fraud case?
The Favre-associated fraud claims are just a small part of a much larger scandal, according to The Washington Post. Altogether, up to $100 million of welfare funding was likely misspent over a period of several years.
“There are real victims, there are people that didn’t receive the money they needed to get their car fixed, to get a job; moms who couldn’t get diapers. What good could have been done in Mississippi with this $94 million? How many families could’ve been impacted?” said Aisha Nyandoro, chief executive of Springboard To Opportunities, a nonprofit that works with Mississippi families, to The Washington Post.
The money came from a federal program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which enables states to send grant money to organizations serving people in need. Instead of properly vetting grant recipients, Mississippi officials funneled piles of money to famous or otherwise powerful people who had asked for favors.
“John Davis, the director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), funneled tens of millions of dollars in block-granted TANF money to a nonprofit, Mississippi Community Education Center, under the guise that the nonprofit was performing and subcontracting TANF-allowable activities,” Vox reported. “Nancy New, head of the Mississippi Community Education Center, was (then) kicking back money to Davis, his friends, and his family while enriching herself and her family as well.”
Davis and New have both pleaded guilty to federal and local charges, the article noted.
Where does Brett Favre come in?
Favre is one of many well-connected people who allegedly took welfare money in exchange for making an empty promise to help people in need.
The civil suit argues — using the text messages as proof — that Favre worked with Davis, New and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding for a new volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi.
“The texts show that the then-governor even guided Favre on how to write a funding proposal so that it could be accepted by the Mississippi Department of Human Services,” Mississippi Today reported.
And just this week, additional text messages were released featuring a discussion between Bryant and Favre about the quarterback’s efforts to get public money for a new practice facility for Southern Mississippi’s football team. The governor warned Favre that misuse of the funds could violate federal law.
“Favre’s request for money from the Mississippi Department of Humans Services to fund the football facility went nowhere,” The Associated Press reported.
What could happen to Favre and others named in the civil lawsuit?
Because the case filed by Mississippi against Favre and others is a civil lawsuit rather than a criminal one, the accused parties are not looking at jail time. The state just wants the people and businesses named in the suit to repay the welfare money they received.
Favre has already paid back the $1.1 million in speaking fees he personally received, as The Associated Press noted. But the state also wants the $2.1 million that went to the companies he invested in, according to The Washington Post.
The lawsuit “alleges that, as the largest individual outside investor and stockholder in Prevacus, a Florida-based company attempting to develop a concussion drug, Favre urged CEO Jacob VanLandingham to ask Nancy New to use welfare grant money to invest in the company,” the article noted.
Regardless of how the civil lawsuit shakes out, Favre’s reputation will likely take a permanent hit, despite his insistence that he didn’t know the funds were coming from a welfare program, The New York Times reported.
“Favre has not been charged with a crime. But the evidence that links him to this scandal has further compromised the standing earned with his football success across a 20-year NFL career, particularly in the state where he has been a favorite son,” the article said.