An ex-director of Mississippi’s welfare agency pleads guilty over misspent money

John Davis, former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, enters Thad Cochrane United States Courthouse in Jackson, Miss., on Thursday, where he is indicted on new federal charges of conspiracy to misappropriate tens of millions of dollars. Is. Intended to help families in need.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP


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Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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John Davis, former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, enters Thad Cochrane United States Courthouse in Jackson, Miss., on Thursday, where he is indicted on new federal charges of conspiracy to misappropriate tens of millions of dollars. Is. Intended to help families in need.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

JACKSON, Miss. — A former director of Mississippi’s welfare agency pleaded guilty Thursday to new federal charges of conspiring to spend tens of millions of dollars aimed at helping families in need in one of America’s poorest states. was the biggest part. A case of public corruption in the history of the state.

John Davis appeared in federal court to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy against the government and one count of fraud. During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves asked several questions about whether Davis understood the charges for which he was pleading guilty.

“Yes, sir,” replied Davis each time.

Reeves sentenced on February 2. Davis remains free on bond, and the judge said he expected Davis to make a better decision from now on.

“I hope this part of your life is behind you,” Reeves said.

Davis was indicted on state charges in February 2020. He was indicted again this spring on state charges that he participated in the misappropriation of welfare funds, including some used to send a former pro wrestler to a luxury drug rehab facility.

State charges are being dropped in exchange for Davis pleading guilty to federal charges and agreeing to testify against others in the case, according to a state court settlement filed Wednesday. The state court document said Davis had agreed to plead guilty in federal court to five counts of conspiracy and 13 counts of fraud, but he pleaded guilty to one count of each. Lawyers in federal court did not mention many of the charges or explain the contents of the state court document.

Federal charges were handed down on September 15, but sealed as of Wednesday. Federal court records show that Davis appeared before a magistrate judge on Wednesday, and Davis waived the indictment and agreed to stand trial under federal charges.

Davis was executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services from February 2016 to July 2019. He was appointed on the job by the then government. Phil Bryant, a Republican.

Federal charges say Davis conspired with four others who have not been named. Court documents described the two alleged conspirators as executive directors of the organizations, one as the owner of two companies and one only as residents of Hinds County, Mississippi. The capital city of Jackson is in Hinds County.

The conspiracy charges state that one of the organizations paid approximately $498,000 to one of the companies in June 2018. A few days later, that company signed a $1.1 million contract with another company “in exchange for allegedly creating a program to serve inner-city youth.” The allegations also state that the same organization paid the company $700,000 with a youth program contract that summer.

The theft charges say Davis misappropriated federal grants worth more than $10,000.

The conspiracy charge carries up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the theft charge carries up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In April, a mother and son who run a non-profit organization and an education company pleaded guilty to state charges of misappropriating welfare funds, including lavish gifts such as first-class airfare for Davis. Nancy New and Zachary New agreed to testify against the others.

In a state court filing on September 12, attorneys for one of the news organizations listed text messages between retired NFL quarterbacks Brett Favre and Nancy New, between Favre and Bryant, and between Bryant and New.

The messages directed discussions about millions of dollars in welfare money being funded by Favre’s pet project—a volleyball facility being built at the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre, Bryant and New all attended university, and Favre’s daughter began playing volleyball in 2017. Favre and Bryant have not been charged with welfare wrongful spending.

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