Saturday, May 18, 2024

In Case Tied to NFL Legend, Mississippi Leader Misused Taxpayer Money Originally Intended to Help the Poor

Late last week, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the state government of millions of taxpayer dollars meant to help people in poverty.

This, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

That official, John Davis, 54, of Jackson, and his unnamed co-conspirators fraudulently obtained and misused federal funds, including those from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Emergency Food Assistance programs (TEFAP). DOJ officials said Davis and his co-conspirators used this money for their personal use and benefit.

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“At Davis’s direction, MDHS provided federal funds to two nonprofit organizations and then directed the two nonprofit organizations to fraudulently award contracts to various entities and individuals for social services that were never provided,” DOJ officials said. 

“In addition, Davis caused the nonprofit organizations to disburse full or almost-full payments pursuant to those sham contracts at or near the beginning of the contract periods, regardless of whether any work had been performed and knowing that no significant services would be provided.”

Mississippi Today reported this month that Davis, former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, former NFL player Brett Favre, and others “worked together to channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds to build a new volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter played the sport.”

The publication went on to say that “neither Bryant nor Favre have been charged with any crime.”

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According to the DOJ, Davis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. Court officials are scheduled to sentence him in February of next year. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy count and 10 years in prison for the theft concerning programs receiving federal funds count. 

TANF funds are designed to help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Federal officials designed TEFAP, meanwhile, to provide emergency food assistance to low-income Americans. 

“The amount of food each state receives out of the total amount of food provided is based on the number of unemployed persons and the number of people with incomes below the poverty level in the state,” according to the USDA.

According to the most recent U.S. Census figures, exactly 19.4 percent of Mississippi’s nearly 3 million residents live in poverty. 

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