A former top Mississippi health official pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to defraud the state of millions of dollars in federal funds as part of a scandal that also involved former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.
A Justice Department release states that John Davis, who served as the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and co-conspirators illegally took funds from two welfare programs — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Emergency Food Assistance Program — for their own personal use.
Davis directed the state human services department to provide federal funds to two nonprofit organizations, which he then told to award contracts to multiple entities and people for social services that were never provided, the release states.
Davis also had the nonprofits make complete or almost-complete payments to those contracts near the start of the contract periods, knowing that no major service would be provided, according to the Justice Department.
Favre received a letter from the state auditor’s office in October to request the repayment of money he received as part of the scheme. Nine other individuals also received the letter.
Favre reportedly was improperly paid $1.1 million in welfare funds from December 2017 to June 2018. He repaid $600,000 in October, but the state auditor said he still owed $228,000 in interest.
Texts between Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) revealed last week that they communicated ways to use at least $5 million in welfare funds for a new volleyball center at the University of Southern Mississippi, his alma mater.
Davis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2023, and he could face up to five years for the count of conspiracy and 10 years for the count of theft.