(The Center Square) – Mississippi wants its federal dollars back, the governor and attorney general announced.
Gov. Tate Reeves and Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a lawsuit Monday in the Circuit Court of Hinds County in the First Judicial District to recover more than $20 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars that they claim were diverted by the 34 defendants named in the case for their enrichment.
The suit names the Mississippi Community Education Center Inc., New Learning Resources Foundation Inc., and others including former professional wrestler Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase Sr., former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, and former college football standout Marcus L. Dupree.
Reeves and Fitch said in a joint statement that they filed the suit on behalf of the people of Mississippi.
“We are filing suit to begin to recoup funds that were improperly used and diverted from their important purpose of helping families in need,” the governor and attorney general said.
In court documents, the Department of Human Services alleges that each defendant received TANF funds without participating in any competitive decision-making process concerning qualifications, prices or fees, violating federal and Mississippi regulations.
TANF was created in 1996 by Congress with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and the state’s plan to expend the money is approved by the federal government. The program works to aid needy families so that children may be raised in their own homes or by relatives.
Court documents allege the defendants, beginning in August 2015, entered into subcontracts within the state’s TANF agreements and understood that funds were not to be used for the private enrichment of wealthy individuals or organizations.
Court documents allege that Teddy DiBiase Jr., son of Ted DiBiase Sr., was paid more than $3 million in TANF funding over two years for services that were never performed.
Brett DiBiase, the famous wrestler’s other son, allegedly diverted $824,255 through Restore 2 LLC for work that was not performed, according to court documents, and $160,00 was received through payments to Rise in Malibu Inc., a drug abuse treatment facility.
Meanwhile, Ted DiBiase Sr. allegedly received $1.7 million through his Heart of David Ministries Inc. for multiple flight upgrades, reimbursement for meals at local restaurants, debts for vehicle purchases, and high-dollar payments to the organization’s board members.
Neither DiBiase Sr. nor the ministry provided reports about how the money was spent, according to court documents.
The suit said Favre is named as the largest individual outside investor in Prevacus Inc., a private biotechnology company, invested more than $250,000 in TANF funds in the company in 2019 alone.
A $1.7 million investment, according to court documents, was sought for the company that said it would use the money to open testing facilities in Mississippi. Farve was also paid $1.1 million for autographs and four speeches never performed.
Dupree, court documents show, received $371,000, of which $171,000 was used for purchasing his personal residence, and an additional $200,000 in purported lease payments on the property and adjoining acreage were made in February 2018.