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Sunday, March 3, 2024
Law

Judge Rules Brett Favre’s Tax Returns Are Off-Limits in Welfare Case

  • Eleanor Faye Peterson denied Mississippi welfare agency’s request for four years of documents.
  • The judge, however, ordered the Hall of Famer to comply with four other discovery requests.
Shelley Mays / USA TODAY NETWORK

Brett Favre won’t have to turn over his tax returns subpoenaed as part of a Mississippi welfare agency’s civil case that seeks to recover millions of misspent funds. 

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Eleanor Faye Peterson denied the Mississippi Department of Human Services’ request for Favre’s tax returns from 2017-2020, the span of time where text messages allegedly show his efforts to secure funding for a volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi and a drug company. Favre has denied knowing that the source of that money came from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. 

“[The] defendant’s personal tax returns do not appear to be relevant to the claims or defenses,”  Peterson wrote on Friday in an order obtained by Front Office Sports. “Specifically, the complaint does not allege that Favre personally received TANF funds.”

The original complaint filed in May 2022 did allege that Favre’s company (Favre Enterprises) received funds directly — $1.1 million for speeches and public service announcements he did not perform. Favre repaid that money, and that claim was not part of the amendment lawsuit filed last December, as Favre Enterprises was dropped as a defendant.  

But Peterson ordered Favre to compel with four other requests: 

  • “Describe in detail all documents and/or recordings and/or data concerning the subject matter of this action that have been destroyed, lost, discarded, or otherwise disposed.” Favre’s attorneys claimed that the request had “conspiratorial intent.”
  • “Specifically state whether, as of September 1, 2017, you understood the following: (1) that John Davis was the executive director of MDHS; (2) that MDHS was Mississippi’s welfare agency; (3) that MDHS was a State agency; and (4) that MCEC received funding from MDHS. Your answer should respond to each subpart separately.”
  • “Describe in detail every instance within the last 15 years in which you have had a claim brought against you, whether civil, criminal, or regulatory, including for each, the year, jurisdiction, claimant, nature of the claim, and how the claim [was] resolved.”
  • “Produce all written communications” from “January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2020” with other defendants in the lawsuit, then-USM Athletic Director Jon Gilbert, and text messages and emails where “welfare” or “poverty” or “poor” appeared. 

“Favre shall fully and completely respond to said requests propounded to him within ten (10) days of entry of this Order,” Peterson wrote. 

On Monday, Favre was deposed for about nine hours by MDHS lawyers, the first time the Hall of Famer went under oath in the case. 

Favre has filed multiple motions to be dismissed as a defendant, and his legal team went so far as to appeal Peterson’s refusal to do so. In August, a three-judge panel of the Mississippi Supreme Court denied Favre’s appeal petition. 

Favre has not been charged criminally, although four others who allegedly were at his house in Mississippi for a January 2019 have been charged federally: Davis, Nancy and Zach New (the head of a nonprofit where the TANF funds were funneled through), and Ted DiBiase Jr. (the son of pro wrestler The Million Dollar Man, charged in April). 

That meeting concerned Prevacus, the drug company that received about $2 million in TANF funds. Favre was the largest investor in the now-defunct Prevacus, which developed two concussion-related treatments. 

A filing earlier this week from the News’ non-profit  — the  Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) — offered up new details on Prevacus’ need for the money after founder Jake VanLandingham “invested Prevacus funds ‘off the books’ in a speculative venture in Ghana, Africa.”

“Not surprisingly, the investment was not paying off as promised,” the 81-page filing on Tuesday stated. “According to Vanlandingham, the lack of funds was an impediment to FDA approval.”

VanLandingham, who also at the meeting at Favre’s house has not been charged with any crimes, although he is also among the 47 defendants in the civil case.

VanLandingham lost thousands on the scam, adding the to the immediate need for the funding, according to the filing first reported by FOS.

According to the MCEC filing, Vanlandingham concealed the losses from Favre and Nancy New.

Vanlandingham texted Favre in June 2019 that Prevacus would “need a big funder [to come] in this week,” according to the court documents.

Favre responded: “Who you trying to get it from.”

Vanlandingham replied simply, “internationally.” MCEC claims that meant Ghana. 

Days after that exchange, then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant reported Davis to State Auditor Shad White in June 21, 2019. Davis resigned a month later, and White began a criminal inquiry around the same time period.

Bryant, in an 2022 interview, “claimed he did not know that Prevacus and volleyball were being funded through using MDHS grant funds.” Text messages also show Favre was involved in securing $5 million for the USM volleyball center. The USM Athletic Foundation, which court records claim received the funds from the News, is also a defendant in the lawsuit. 

Favre soon became interested new MDHS director, Chris Freeze, and White’s inquiry.

Favre texted Bryant: “Did you find out if auditor looked at info?”

Bryant responded: “I am working on it everyday Coach. Had a good conversation with Nancy…today. … Moving ahead…” 

“Bryant, using Favre as intermediary, told New how to revise the grant proposal to ‘get it accepted,’ the MCEC filing stated. “Favre texted New that the Governor had ‘has seen [the revised grant proposal] but hint hint that you need to reword it to get it accepted.’” Bryant texted Favre, ‘“’Hopefully she can put more details in the proposal. Like how many times the facility will be used and how many child [sic] will be served and for what specific purpose.'”

Favre, New, Bryant and Freeze met in September 2019 at “MDHS to discuss the grant proposal for the additional $2 million.” While Bryant said in 2022 interview that where he “claimed he put a stop to Favre’s requests for additional grant funding for volleyball at the meeting.”

But minutes after that meeting, Bryant texted Favre, “We are going to get there,” according to the filing.  

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