The national media was a bit slow on the uptake when it came to Brett Favre’s ties to the Mississippi welfare funds scandal.
Many of us could’ve brushed against it as far back as five years ago — we just didn’t know it.
At the same time, Favre was looking for funding for Prevacus, lobbying that eventually accessed about $2.2 million from federal funds meant to go to low-income families.
That was Favre’s first link to the scandal, as investigators focused on one of the nonprofits through which some of the more than $77 million in misspent welfare funds were funneled.
“We asked this question: What else are they spending welfare money on?” Mississippi State Auditor Shad White told Front Office Sports. “So that’s when we really started looking at the outflows that were coming out of that nonprofit. One of the outflows was to Prevacus. We realized, ‘Well, Mr. Favre is somehow engaged in this.’”
It Adds Up
Favre has since been connected — often through his own texts that have appeared in court filings — to more than $8 million in misspent funds that came from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), according to court documents and sources.
- Favre lobbied for $5 million from TANF funds to build a volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, his alma mater and where his daughter played the sport at the time.
- Favre received $1.1 million from the same source for speeches and radio spots he didn’t do — also a violation of the narrow ways TANF money can be spent.
- Favre repaid the money, but White said he still hasn’t paid back more than $200,000 in interest.
- In a Sept. 23 court filing, more texts from Favre show he lobbied for $1.5 million from the state’s welfare agency to build an indoor practice facility in an attempt to lure Deion Sanders’ son Shedeur to play at Southern Miss. In the same texts that were part of the filing, Favre suggested using prison labor to keep costs down.
Favre’s longtime lawyer Bud Holmes denied that Favre knowingly took money meant for the poorest residents of Mississippi, the state with the highest poverty rate in the nation.
But on Thursday, Holmes told FOS that Favre has hired a new legal team, and that he was told not to make any further comments about the scandal. Former Trump White House attorney Eric Herschmann has taken over as Favre’s attorney in this matter.
Favre and Prevacus
Favre said in interviews promoting Prevacus that he had suffered “hundreds” of concussions.
In the lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) in May where Favre, Prevacus, and Prevacus founder Jake VanLandingham are among the defendants, Favre was listed as the company’s largest investor.
A source with knowledge of Favre’s dealings with Prevacus said that Favre built up much of that stake in the company through stock issued for media appearances.
Favre also met with John Davis, the head of Mississippi’s DHS at the time of the May 2019 meeting, and exchanged texts with then-Gov. Phil Bryant.
“We couldn’t be more happy about the funding from the State of MS,” Favre texted Bryant in February 2019 per Mississippi Today.
Davis pleaded guilty to 20 state and federal charges on Sept. 22, 2022 and is cooperating with the investigation as part of the plea deal worked out with prosecutors. Nancy New, the head of a nonprofit where the funds were funneled, also pleaded guilty to multiple charges and is cooperating.
“Favre said the money was coming from a state fund for children’s health and safety,” a source told FOS. (The source was granted anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation.)
Bryant has denied he knew where Favre was getting the money for the ventures funded by the state welfare agency.
‘It Would Be a Game-Changer’
Prevacus — along with its only product, the company’s nasal spray PRV-002 — was bought by Odyssey Health in 2021. The nasal spray concept, which delivers neurosteroid to cure concussions, hasn’t yet panned out. An initial human trial in Australia recently concluded the novel approach is safe, but efficacy has yet to be tested on people.
But there was a curious SEC filing on Sept. 15, the same time the scrutiny of Favre picked up.
- “A shareholder returned eight million (8,000,000) common stock shares to Odyssey Health, Inc,” the 8-K filing stated.
- Since Odyssey Health, its investment firm, and VanLandingham either could not be reached or declined comment, it’s unclear who or why those shares were turned in.
- Coincidentally, those shares (at Friday’s close of $0.28) equate to $2.2 million — the same amount Prevacus allegedly took in from welfare funds.
‘If You Were To Pay Me…”
Favre has not been charged with a crime, although sources told FOS that both state and federal investigators have him on their radar. There is also no indication that Favre is the subject of either a federal or state grand jury.
But it sure seemed from a cache of texts released in April as part of the lawsuit that Favre knew something wasn’t quite right when it came to the origins of the funds.
“If you were to pay me, is there anyway [sic] the media can find out where it came from and how much?” Favre wrote in a text to New in August 2017.
More texts appear to show that then-University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Director Jon Gilbert was apprehensive about the volleyball complex funding from the state’s welfare department — which is barred from using TANF funds for construction.
Favre pressed on in text messages exchanged with New that appeared in a Friday filing in the ongoing lawsuit.
“My fear is [Gilbert] doesn’t except [sic] all that you and John [Davis] can allocate even if it is legally signed off on,” Favre wrote in the July 2017 text. “It’s obvious that you and John are tremendous assets for USM and in order for us to get ahead in the game we have to utilize you guys in every way.”
“They are scared to death it seems 👎,” Favre wrote in an August 2017 text to New.
The FBI Question
For Shad White, Favre’s claims that he had no clue that welfare funds were the source of his projects doesn’t ring true — either now or when White and Favre had a Twitter exchange last October.
“It was an interesting moment because we’re documenting and proving everything that we’re seeing,” White said. “This is not just something that we spend our time making up over here. After that Twitter exchange, that same day, I did a press conference … and I said federal investigators from the FBI and my team have already met with and interviewed Mr. Favre at least once.”
White pushed back on what Favre’s attorney Holmes told Mississippi Today — that the FBI only asked his client one question: Had Favre ever been to Tupelo?
“That’s not quite accurate,” White said. “We had our investigator in the room, too. I don’t want to spill the tea on what they’re investigating or what they’re thinking.”
- White declined to speculate whether he feels either the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Hinds County District Attorney — the prosecutorial bodies that indicted Davis, New, and others involved in the scheme — will charge Favre.
- Legal experts interviewed by FOS over the two weeks feel the legal pocket is collapsing on Favre.
Federal criminal defense attorney Matt Tympanick told FOS that it “looks like Favre is more of the focal point of the investigation than even Phil Bryant” when it comes to the federal side of the probe.
“He picked the absolute worst time since maybe the Jim Crow era in Mississippi — with part of the state now having issues with running water — to have possibly the most successful athlete to ever come out of Mississippi getting caught misappropriating funds,” said Tympanick, founder of Tympanick Law.
“When a jury looks at those text messages, and hears from those who participated in the alleged conspiracy, things are going to pile up. If allegations are proven, the jury is going to be looking at Favre — a guy they probably idolized — with a look that says, ‘Shame on you. You disappointed us.'”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 3 with news of Favre’s new attorney.