A former head of Mississippi’s welfare agency agreed to terms on a plea with federal and state prosecutors on Thursday, a major turn in an investigation that could spell trouble for Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.
John Davis, the former director of Mississippi’s Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in the widening scandal related to more than $70 million in misappropriated welfare funds in the state with the highest level of poverty in the nation. As part a plea agreement, Davis has agreed to cooperate with investigators.
Davis had previously been indicted for more than two dozen state and federal charges as part of the scheme. Nancy New, the head of a nonprofit used to funnel welfare funds, pleaded guilty to 13 felonies for her role in the fraud in April.
“If Favre gets indicted — and I expect he will be — one of the counts will surely be wire fraud,” said Matt Tympanick , a veteran federal criminal defense attorney and founder of Tympanick Law. “The text messages show that he was asking if you pay me money, would anybody be able to determine who paid me and how much?
“If those text messages can be authenticated by Davis, they can be used at trial. If not, they would be deemed inadmissible at trial.”
A source with knowledge of the investigation told FOS that Favre is on the radar of investigators and has been for months.
Favre and former Gov. Phil Bryant have not been charged for their alleged roles.
Davis faces up to 15 years in prison for the federal charges, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. He will be sentenced Feb. 2.
For the state charges, Davis faces up to 32 years in prison on the five counts of conspiracy and 13 counts of fraud against the government that stem from state charges.
“While this case is far from over, John Davis’s guilty plea is a resounding victory for the State of Mississippi and its citizens,” Hinds County District Attorney Jody E. Owens said in a statement to FOS.
It’s expected that Davis will serve around 10 years total as part of his plea agreements.
“Today marks an important day for justice for Mississippians in the massive welfare scheme that my office uncovered more than two years ago,” Mississippi State Auditor Shad White said in a statement.
“District Attorney Jody Owens and his team did an incredible job putting a stop to the flow of money to the fraudsters who took from the poorest in the state.
“We would not be here if they had not shown courage and the willingness to charge these individuals with crimes. My team has given every piece of evidence we have to federal investigators and will continue to work jointly with them to see this matter to its conclusion.”
Favre’s attorney Bud Holmes has denied Favre knew he was accepting money from welfare funds.
Davis’ federal charging document lists four unindicted co-conspirators. Mississippi Today reported that former pro wrestler Ted DiBiase — known in his wrestling days as the Million Dollar Man — and New are among the four.
A spokesperson for the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office told Front Office Sports on Wednesday that it was “unable to speak to possible indictments of anyone in this matter” when asked about Favre.
Tympanick also said Favre’s interview with the FBI could also prove problematic.
According to Mississippi Today, two federal agents only asked Favre one question: Had he ever been to Tupelo, Mississippi? Favre responded that he visited Tupelo once at age 9.
“FBI agents don’t ask questions they don’t know the answer to,” Tympanick said. “You ask that because lying to a federal agent in federal matter is a felony. They had to have thought he’d been there in furtherance of a conspiracy otherwise they wouldn’t ask him that question.”
Favre is linked to about $8 million in misappropriated welfare funds.
Favre received $1.1 million that was earmarked for the disadvantaged for speeches between 2017 and 2019 that he allegedly didn’t do. He repaid the $1.1 million, but Favre reportedly still owes about $228,000 in interest.
Bryant worked with New to secure $5 million in welfare funds for a volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, a 2019 deal that came about after lobbying by Favre. His daughter played volleyball at the school at the time. Davis was involved in the early part of the project.
Prevacus, a pharma startup that Favre backed, received more than $2 million from a pool of welfare money.