Brett Favre questioned by FBI in Mississippi welfare fraud scandal

·7 min read

Local and federal agencies have been investigating a welfare fraud scandal in the state of Mississippi for over two years, and more and more, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre finds himself in the epicenter of it.

In an exclusive NBC News report,  and  reveal that not only did the state of Mississippi pay Favre $1.1 million in 2017 and 2018 for motivational speeches he reportedly never gave, but also that the funds were given to Favre from federal welfare funds in the nation’s poorest state. Those facts have been revealed before; the exclusive part of the NBC News report is that Favre recently underwent questioning from the FBI in the matter.

The state of Mississippi demanded the money back from Favre, and he repaid the fees, though not the $228,000 in interest demanded by the state auditor.

Favre has not been charged with a crime, and his attorney, Bud Holmes, has said that Favre did nothing wrong, and that his client was not aware that his speaking fees came from federal welfare funds.

Favre tried to make this case for himself in a series of tweets last October.

Text messages between Favre and former Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, acquired in April by Mississippi Today, revealed that Bryant tried to get more of those funds to help Favre back a fledgling pharmaceutical venture.

From that report:

“It’s 3rd and long and we need you to make it happen!!” Favre wrote to the governor in late December 2018, according to text messages recently obtained by Mississippi Today.

“I will open a hole,” Bryant responded, piggybacking on the football metaphor.

Less than a week later, Favre would meet with Bryant’s welfare officials to strike a deal for a $1.7 million investment in the biomedical startup Prevacus, which promised it had found a treatment for concussions. Prosecutors now say that money was stolen from a federal program intended to serve the state’s poorest residents – a pot of money that had virtually no oversight.

State Auditor Shad White, who Favre referred to in his tweets, is a Bryant appointee and Bryant’s former campaign manager. He arrested Nancy New and John Davis, former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and prosecutors have alleged that New and Davis conspired to steal welfare funds, including $2.15 million that New allegedly funneled to Prevacus.

Favre also wanted a $5 million grant for a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he played college football, and his daughter played volleyball.

From the NBC News report:

“All of it remains quite a mystery,” Pigott told NBC News, “as to why Mr. Favre would get the benefit of millions of dollars in TANF welfare money, both for a fee for speeches he didn’t make, $2 million-plus to go to a company in which he was the largest outside individual investor and $5 million for his alma mater to play volleyball in a volleyball building.”

“Pigott” is Brad Pigott, the former U.S. Attorney, who was fired by current Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Before he was fired, Pigott sued on behalf of Mississippi’s welfare agency, and Favre was one of the 37 grant recipients named.

“Governor Bryant gave tens of millions of dollars of this TANF welfare money to a nonprofit led by a person who he knew well and who had more connections with his political party than with the good people in Mississippi who have the heart and the skills to actually cajole people out of poverty or prevent teenage pregnancies,” Pigott told NBC News.

“The notion of tens of millions of dollars that was intended by the country to go to the alleviation of poverty — and to see it going toward very different purposes — was appalling to many of us. Mr. Favre was a very great quarterback, but having been a great NFL quarterback, he is not well acquainted with poverty.”

In an April, 2022 interview with Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe, Bryant also said that he had no idea any of the grants were coming from welfare funds — a fascinating admission for a state governor to make.

“I had no idea,” Bryant said. “And here’s the thing about being governor: You have to depend on a lot of people, the internal controls of every agency. So, my thought initially was, ‘How could this happen? How could someone in the agency not identify this? How could the auditor not find this?’ And I know that I shouldn’t say that because the audit is just a big ole audit every other year, but you’ve got an assistant attorney general there at DHS. Surely they’re reviewing something. But you have to believe — and I tried to put in as much internal controls when I was state auditor. I kept going to the Legislature and saying, ‘We need internal auditors. We need more internal control.’

“So I just did not believe. Now I could have missed signs that that was occurring because again, I was going a hundred miles an hour every day, and this was not at the top of my list. I had a special session that year passing the lottery and passing sports betting. I mean, we had so many things going on and then I’d get an email and I’d kind of quickly respond, ‘Great. Thank you.’ And then I’d go right back to my meetings or whatever else that I was doing.”

Per NBC News, Favre wasn’t the only one receiving federal funds under interesting auspices.

The state auditor said he found other “no show” contracts benefiting former pro athletes and family members of Davis, the welfare agency director.

The auditor said Davis directed one contract to Austin Smith, his nephew, who was paid more than $400,000 to provide “coding skills” classes even though prosecutors allege he had no such skills “and did not know how to teach.”

At least $3 million went to Ted DiBiase, a retired professional wrestler. Marcus Dupree, a former college football star, also received $370,000 in welfare funds, which prosecutors say partly went to fund his horse ranch.

Paul LaCoste, who is the current governor’s athletic trainer, was paid $300,000 in welfare funds to run a fitness boot camp for legislators.

Perhaps the most galling part of the entire scandal, again per NBC News:

According to state figures, Mississippi rejects more than 90% of those who apply for the federal welfare benefit known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. This year 2,500 children received benefits, state officials said, in a state with 192,000 poor children.

“TANF has been a slush fund for a long time,” Oleta Fitzgerald, the director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office in Jackson, Mississippi, told NBC News. “Mississippi is the poorest doggone state in the country — where is the money, and what are they doing with it? There is nobody on welfare — welfare participation rates are way down — and no one knows where that money is being spent.”

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire