Mississippi, the state that worships Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre as a local hero, this week threatened to sue him if he doesn’t pay back the $ 828,000 he owes within 30 days, according to the state auditor.
Mr Favre was among more than 10 people who received letters from the auditor, Shad White, demanding the repayment of tens of millions of dollars linked to a massive fraud scheme involving poorly spent welfare.
In May 2020, a scathing audit found that the state of Mississippi had authorized the use of millions of dollars in anti-poverty funds in a way that has done little or nothing to help the poor, with two groups in nonprofits instead using money on lobbyists, football tickets, church concerts, and fitness programs for state lawmakers.
The scheme led to criminal charges against six people, including the former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, who was accused of conspiring with the directors of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center and the centre’s accountant. to defraud taxpayers and create false invoices. Mr. Favre has not been charged.
Former executive director John Davis is to pay $ 96.3 million – including interest – for his role in authorizing more than $ 77 million in illegal social spending, White said.
Mr White said Mr Favre, 52, received $ 1.1 million from the Mississippi Community Education Center in speech fees for appearances he never made. The payments he received in December 2017 and June 2018 were paid with federal welfare benefits, White said.
Mr Favre did not know the money was intended for needy families, Mr White said. Mr. Favre made a payment of $ 500,000 to Mr. White’s office in May 2020 and agreed to pay the remaining $ 600,000 over the next few months, the auditor said.
But Mr Favre never paid the remaining balance, Mr White said. In a letter on Tuesday, the auditor demanded that Mr. Favre pay the balance of $ 600,000 plus an additional $ 228,000 in interest within 30 days or, he said, he would be required to take legal action. in justice.
“It is time for taxpayers to try to recoup what we have lost,” White said in a statement.
The letter was addressed to Mr. Favre as well as to Favre Enterprises and Robert L. Culumber, a business partner. A representative for Mr Favre did not immediately respond to messages on Wednesday, nor did Mr Culumber.
Mr. Favre, who grew up in Mississippi and played football at the University of Southern Mississippi, spent 20 seasons in the National Football League, most with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he won the Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.
In a series of tweets Last year, Mr. Favre wrote that he appeared in advertisements for a Mississippi resource center that had received welfare grants. He also said he never received any money for obligations he failed to meet.
“To reiterate the statement of the White listeners, I had no idea that the money distributed was paid with funds not intended for this purpose, and because of this I am refunding the full amount to Mississippi,” Mr. Favre wrote. in May 2020.
Mr Favre wrote that he had donated nearly $ 10 million through his charity Favre 4 Hope to help underprivileged and underserved children in Mississippi and Wisconsin.
“I would certainly never do anything to take away from the children I fought to help!” he wrote. “I love Mississippi and I would never do anything knowingly to abduct those who need it most.”
The Mississippi Community Education Center had hired Favre Enterprises to attend events, record promotions and provide autographs for marketing material from July 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018, according to a state audit.
There was no mention of the contract price in the documents that were provided to state officials, according to the audit.
The center provided a list of dates and events, indicating that Favre Enterprises had fulfilled the terms of the contract. But state officials said listeners determined Mr Favre had not spoken and was not present at these events.
He is not the only prominent figure who Mr. White says could face prosecution if he does not pay back the money linked to the fraudulent scheme within 30 days.
Heart of David Ministry, a Christian ministry controlled by former WWE wrestler Ted DiBiase Sr., known as Million Dollar Man, has to repay $ 722,299, White said. The ministry and Mr. DiBiase did not immediately respond to the messages.
One of Mr. DiBiase’s sons, Ted DiBiase Jr., who is also a former professional wrestler, has to pay back $ 3.9 million, White said. Another son, Brett DiBiase, who is also a former professional wrestler and was indicted in connection with the fraud scheme last year, has to pay $ 225,950, Mr White said.
State auditors said Brett DiBiase was paid by welfare funds to teach classes on drug use. However, he never taught these classes because he was being treated for opioid addiction at Rise in Malibu Rehabilitation Center in California, listeners said.
Brett DiBiase pleaded guilty last year to one count of making fraudulent statements in order to defraud the government, according to The Clarion-Ledger.