The Mississippi welfare fraud case, in which Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre is allegedly involved in, has taken another turn.
According to a report by Mississippi Today, text messages entered into the state’s ongoing civil lawsuit over the welfare scandal reveal that former Gov. Phil Bryant pushed to make Favre’s new volleyball stadium idea a reality.
The texts showed Bryant pushed for the complex to be built at the University of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s alma mater, using the money that was supposed to go to the state’s welfare agency. Favre’s daughter, Breleigh, played volleyball at Southern Miss at the time some of the texts were sent.
According to the texts, the former governor also guided Favre on how to write the funding proposal so it would be accepted by the Mississippi Department of Human Services. One of the texts was sent shortly after Bryant fired John Davis, the former welfare agency director, for suspected fraud.
“Just left Brett Favre,” Bryant texted nonprofit founder Nancy New in July 2019, within weeks of Davis’ firing. “Can we help him with his project. We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on course.”
The texts — filed Monday by an attorney representing Nancy New’s nonprofit — also showed that Favre inquired of Bryant how the new agency director could affect the funding plans. He was assured by the ex-governor that the plan still could go through.
“I will handle that… long story but had to make a change,” Bryant wrote, according to the filing and a text Favre forwarded to New. “But I will call Nancy and see what it will take.”
The newly released texts also show that Bryant, Favre, New, Davis and others worked together to channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds to build the new stadium.
According to Mississippi Today, Bryant has for years denied close involvement in the steering of welfare funds to the stadium. But one text showed that plans for the project even included naming the building after Bryant.
New, a friend of Bryant’s wife, Deborah, ran a nonprofit that was in charge of spending tens of millions of flexible federal welfare dollars outside of public view. What followed was the biggest public fraud case in state history, according to the state auditor’s office. Forensic auditors found that nonprofit leaders had misspent at least $77 million in funds that were supposed to help those in need.
New pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts related to the scheme. Davis awaits trial and also is now aiding prosecutors as part of her plea deal, according to the report. Neither Bryant nor Favre has been charged with any crime.
In another part of the fraud case, Favre also was questioned by the FBI in early September regarding the misappropriated funds.
The state of Mississippi gave Favre $1.1 million in 2017 and 2018 to deliver speeches, drawing the money from federal welfare funds. Favre did not give them.
Consequently, Mississippi’s state auditor forced Favre to return the money, with interest. Favre has repaid the $1.1 million, but not the $228,000 interest, according to multiple reports.
According to the texts, the $1.1 million welfare contract Favre received that drew those headlines in September was just a way to get more funding to the volleyball project.
“I could record a few radio spots,” Favre texted New. “…and whatever compensation could go to USM.”
Though the state-of the-art volleyball stadium represents the largest known fraudulent purchase within the welfare fraud case, according to one of the criminal defendant’s plea agreement, the state is not pursuing the matter in its ongoing civil complaint, according to the Mississippi Today report. Tate Reeves, the current governor, abruptly fired the attorney bringing the state’s case when he tried to subpoena documents related to the stadium.