In a scandal that has shaken Mississippi, the state auditor claims that $70 million in federal assistance payments were given to Favre, a volleyball facility, and a former professional wrestler.
The poorest state in the country paid Brett Favre with welfare funds for speeches he never gave
Over the course of his two decades in the NFL, Brett Favre made close to $140 million in salary, plus millions more from commercial endorsements. The state of Mississippi nevertheless paid Favre $1.1 million in 2017 and 2018 to deliver motivational talks using federal welfare funding meant for low-income families, despite this.
Favre was accused of not giving the speeches by the Mississippi state auditor, who also wanted a refund of the money plus interest. Although Favre has paid back the costs, he hasn’t done so for the $228,000 in interest that the auditor also requested.
The scandal that has rocked the nation’s poorest state, however, is centered on the auditor’s revelation that $70 million in TANF welfare funds were given to a professional wrestler, a multimillionaire athlete, a horse farm, and a volleyball complex. This revelation sparked parallel state and federal criminal investigations, which resulted in charges and guilty pleas from some of the scandal’s key players.
Favre denied an interview and hasn’t been charged or accused of a crime. According to his attorney Bud Holmes, he did nothing wrong and never realized that the money used to pay him was meant to aid underprivileged children. Holmes revealed that Favre had been questioned by the FBI in connection with the case, which had not previously been made public.
The case, which has been simmering for two and a half years, gained new attention in July when the state welfare office fired a lawyer who had been hired to recover some of the money, shortly after he issued a subpoena seeking more information about the roles of Favre and the Republican former governor, Phil Bryant.
Republican Tate Reeves, the current governor, acknowledged having a hand in the choice to fire Brad Pigott and accused the former U.S. attorney chosen by Bill Clinton of having a political agenda. But auditor Shad White, the state official who originally discovered the fraud and misappropriation, is a Republican.
In his first television interview after being sacked, Pigott claimed that his main goals were to learn the truth and recover back the American taxpayer money that he claims was “squandered” in Mississippi. Many of us found it abhorrent that the government had allocated tens of millions of dollars for the aim of reducing poverty when they were actually being used for other things, he added. Mr. Favre was a very good quarterback, but due to his success in the NFL, he is not familiar with poverty.
Before being fired, Pigott sued on behalf of Mississippi’s welfare agency, accusing Bryant and 37 other grant beneficiaries in addition to Favre. Pigott placed the ultimate culpability at the feet of these politicians. He claimed that “Governor Bryant gave tens of millions of dollars of this TANF welfare money to a nonprofit headed by a person he knew very well and who had more connections with his political party than with the good people in Mississippi who have the heart and the ability to actually cajole people out of poverty or prevent teenage pregnancies.”
Bryant said he was unaware that the grants were funded by welfare in an interview with the website Mississippi Today. Requests for comment from his attorney went unanswered. Nancy New, a close friend of Bryant’s wife and the head of the charity organization Pigott was referring to, is the person in charge.
In response to state and federal allegations, New and her son have admitted guilt and promised to cooperate. In a court filing, New, a significant figure in the distribution of the funds, said that Bryant was one of those in charge of overseeing the transactions.
Her attorney opted not to comment. John Davis, the former director of the state’s welfare agency, has entered a not-guilty plea to allegations of bribery and conspiracy, and law enforcement officials say their inquiries are ongoing. Last year, White, the state auditor, said that Favre had taken state funding for talks he never meant to give.
In response, Favre defended himself in a series of tweets. Shad White continues to spread the falsehood that the money was for no-show events, and Favre responded, “I would never intentionally take cash meant to aid our neighbors in need, but I cannot keep silent about this.”
You can keep using your celebrity megaphone to drown out the facts, but it won’t change the facts, the state auditor wrote in response to Favre’s argument in a series of tweets that referenced the contract he was awarded. There are other social grants connected to Favre besides the speeches.
Text messages obtained by Mississippi Today and verified by Pigott reveal that Favre requested a $5 million grant for the construction of a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi, where both his daughter played volleyball and he played football, as well as a $3.2 million grant for a pharmaceutical company in which he was a shareholder.
The attorney for Favre declined to comment. Despite the fact that none of the treatments were accepted by the Food and Drug Administration, the pharmaceutical business Prevacus promoted them as ways to lessen the consequences of concussions. In a few texts, Favre advocated giving Bryant stock in the pharmaceutical company while he was governor.
Favre texted a company representative in November 2018 with the words “Don’t know whether legal or not but we need to chop him in,” in reference to Bryant. Three days later, Favre followed up by writing, “Also if legal, I’ll gift some of my shares to the Governor.”
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