NFL Legend Favre Swept Up in Mississippi Welfare Fraud Investigation

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When Brett Favre, the revered retired NFL quarterback, found himself embroiled in Mississippi’s sweeping welfare scandal, the recommendation came from an unexpected source. The younger brother of Gov. Tate Reeves, Todd Reeves, urged the state official investigating the massive fraud to release a favourable statement about Favre.

Images of text messages, recently unveiled by Reeves’ re-election campaign, disclose the younger Reeves liaising a request from Favre to Mississippi State Auditor Shad White. The plea, made in May 2020, came a few months subsequent to an announcement by the auditor that criminal charges had been leveled against six individuals. These individuals were alleged to have misappropriated welfare funds designated for the nation’s most impoverished citizens, redirecting them to influential and affluent parties.

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Despite the media scrutiny surrounding the scandal, Favre remains uncharged with any criminal activity. The retired football hero alleges that the media coverage has tainted his reputation, focusing on payments he had received — sums that were directed towards his passion project: a volleyball arena at his alma mater where his daughter also played the sport.

The text messages reveal Todd Reeves asking White to make a public statement affirming that the investigation found Favre blameless, and that any amounts he was refunding for advertisements and public service notices were born purely from his goodwill.

White released a statement on the same day he received Todd Reeves’ text, commending Favre for repaying US$500,000 received from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. In a later pronouncement, a spokesperson for White avowed that the auditor disseminated the truth accessible at that time.

As additional evidence came to light showing Favre’s awareness that the funds were initially allocated for impoverished residents living in ‘shelters,’ the auditor publicly underscored this fact. The spokesperson also indicated White remained candid about Favre’s connection with the scandal each time fresh evidence came to light.

In response to the allegations, Favre filed a defamation lawsuit against White and two national sportscasters in February.

An official statement from Todd Reeves disclosed that he acted as an intermediary between Favre and White to expedite the reimbursement of the misused TANF funds.

So far, Favre has returned US$1.1 million received from a non-profit organization that unauthorizedly expended TANF funds without any formal approval from the state Department of Human Services. However, Favre still owes US$228,000 in interest.

The widespread welfare scandal has become a controversial subject in Mississippi’s gubernatorial race. While Reeves maintains his innocence regarding the scandal, his Democratic adversary, Brandon Presley, asserts that Reeves may have been able to obstruct the fraudulent activities during his tenure as lieutenant governor.

The auditor’s office had attempted to avoid disclosing the text messages by contesting a public records request from Mississippi Today. Despite their objections, the texts were revealed a day later by the governor’s campaign, without any apparent prior warning given to the auditor.

The auditor’s office argued that the disclosure could hinder their ongoing inquiry into the welfare scandal and obstruct the recovery of misappropriated monies. Yet, all the text communications between Todd Reeves and White were disclosed by a campaign spokesperson.

In separate developments, the Mississippi Department of Human Services initiated a civil lawsuit against Favre and over thirty other individuals and businesses to recover more than US$20 million of the misused welfare funds.