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Saturday, June 22, 2024

FBI Raids Prosecutor Who Led Mississippi Welfare Case That Ensnared Favre

  • Jody Owens, the lead prosecutor in the Mississippi’s welfare scandal, had his office and nearby business searched. 
  • Details on what led to the search warrants to be executed remain under seal. 
Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the past four years, Jody Owens has led the criminal prosecution in the Mississippi welfare fraud case that has led to charges against multiple people linked to Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.

On Wednesday, the feds carried out searches of the office where he works as the Hinds County district attorney and a nearby Jackson cigar business he owns. An FBI spokesperson confirmed to Front Office Sports that “multiple” search warrants were carried out, although the reasons for the raids remain unclear. 

“This morning, FBI agents came to our offices,” a spokesperson of Owens’s office said in a statement to FOS. “We are fully cooperating with their efforts. The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office is fully functioning and continues its work on behalf of the citizens of Hinds County. That has been and will continue to be our primary focus. Currently, we have no further statements.”

Favre has not been charged criminally and has denied any wrongdoing. But those who allegedly helped Favre secure millions sourced from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds were charged by Owens’s office and later by federal prosecutors. 

Millions of dollars earmarked for welfare were misdirected to Favre and projects connected to him, according to court documents in the civil case filed by the Mississippi Department of Human Services. (Favre is among dozens of defendants in that case.) Favre received $1.1 million for speaking engagements, was part of an effort that saw about $5 million in funds go to the construction of a volleyball arena at the University of Southern Mississippi—where his daughter was on the volleyball team—and another nearly $2 million to the drug company Prevacus, which counted Favre as its largest investor. Favre has since repaid the $1.1 million he received directly for the speeches and public service announcements, although Mississippi State Auditor Shad White is seeking to recover unpaid interest. 

Owens served as the chief policy counsel and managing attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office before he was elected as Hinds County DA in 2019. Within weeks of taking office, White began to work with Owens on the criminal prosecution of those who were part of a scheme that saw more than $77 million in misspent TANF funds. 

On the same steps that federal authorities traversed Wednesday, White and Owens announced the first criminal charges in the case in February 2020. Former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Service John Davis, Nancy and Zach New—who led a nonprofit organization where the funds were funneled through—were among the first indictments.

“If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre asked Nancy New in an August 2017 text message.

Davis and the News ultimately pleaded guilty to state and federal fraud charges. The three, who like Favre are defendants in the MDHS civil case, are awaiting sentencing and remain free on bond. 

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