State Watch

Former Mississippi official and five others charged in massive public money embezzlement scheme

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A former Mississippi official and five others were charged Wednesday in a public money embezzlement scheme, accused of taking millions that were supposed to go to low-income families.

Former Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) Director John Davis, four colleagues and former professional wrestler Brett DiBiase were arrested Wednesday after the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor investigated the multimillion scheme for eight months, according to the auditor’s office.

Those charged are accused of participating in embezzling funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to use for expenses like business investments and a luxury rehab stay. Officials allege the six people charged worked together to misappropriate funds and falsify records. 

“I don’t care how politically connected a person may be. You do not have the right to treat taxpayer money as your own or to lie to the taxpayers about what you’re doing with that money. Others doing this kind of thing are on notice: this will not be tolerated now,” Auditor Shad White said in the release.

Davis and former DHS employee Latimer Smith allegedly falsified documents to provide DiBiase with TANF money for teaching classes about drug abuse. But officials say DiBiase never taught classes and instead stayed in a “luxury rehabilitation facility” in Malibu, which Davis and Smith knew. 

Nancy New, owner and director of the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and New Learning, and her son Zach, the assistant executive director of MCEC, allegedly used their non-profit to pay for the former wrestler’s opioid treatment. 

The News also allegedly used some money to fund private businesses and for other personal uses. Davis and the News also used TANF funding to personally invest in medical device companies Prevacus Inc. and PreSolMD LLC in Florida. 

MCEC accountant Anne McGrew was also charged.

All six were indicted by a grand jury, according to the release. The total amount of misused money has yet to be calculated but already is beyond any embezzlement scheme in the state auditor’s office.

Davis retired one month after the Human Services Department shared information regarding the scheme to state authorities, NPR reported.

DiBiase wrestled for the WWE’s developmental program and is the son of Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase. 

Tags auditor embezzlement Fraud Mississippi Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
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