John Davis, a former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty Thursday to two federal charges in the ongoing lawsuit for his role in the state’s welfare scandal that involves NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.
Davis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal loans and one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Davis is slated to be sentenced Feb. 2, 2023, and his charges carry a maximum of 15 years in prison. The 54-year-old, who served as executive director from February 2016 to July ’19, helped funnel at least $5 million in federal welfare money toward improper projects that include the creation of a new volleyball facility at Southern Miss, Favre’s alma mater. His daughter plays for the school’s volleyball team.
Per court documents, Davis, along with four co-conspirators “fraudulently obtained and misused federal funds” from two programs for their personal use and benefit. Under Davis’s leadership, MDHS provided federal funds to two nonprofit entities and governed the two organizations to “fraudulently award contracts to various entities” and people for “social services that were never provided,” per the release.
On Wednesday, Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today reported three of the co-conspirators include Nancy New, the director of Mississippi Community Education Center; Christi Webb, director of Family Resource Center of North Mississippi; and Teddy DiBiase Jr., owner of Priceless Ventures, LLC and Familiae Orientem, LLC. A fourth conspirator, per court documents, was unnamed but is a resident of Hinds County in Mississippi.
Davis’s tenure as executive director fell under the leadership of the state’s former governor Phil Bryant. However, Bryant has consistently denied his recollection of using federal welfare money for the projects.
New, a former nonprofit executive, dispersed the money in discussion with Davis and Bryant according to court records. She has already pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts related to the fraud case in which nonprofit leaders misspent at least $77 million in money that was set aside to aid people in need, according to Wolfe.
On Sept. 8, text messages obtained by Wolfe revealed Favre seemingly asking New whether any money he’d received for the volleyball stadium could be tracked back to its source by the media. New said no, adding that she understood why Favre would be “uneasy about that.”
New is helping the prosecution as part of her plea deal and said she worked to help Favre at the instruction of Bryant. The messages also showed that Favre reportedly received a separate $1.1 million welfare contract to promote the program, with Favre proposing to “record a few radio spots.”
Favre has denied any wrongdoing in the case and has reportedly repaid the $1.1 million, saying that he was unaware that the state grants came from federal welfare funds. He has not been charged in with any crime.
More NFL Coverage: