State Auditor Shad White and his investigators arrested the former head of the state’s largest welfare agency, the director of several non-profits, her son, and a former professional wrestler on Tuesday for defrauding a government program that provides assistance to the poor.
Former director of the Department of Human Services John Davis; executive director of the Mississippi Community Education Center Nancy New; her son Zach New, who is the assistant executive director of the same 501 (c)(3) non-profit, and former wrestler Brett DiBiase are accused of obtaining millions from the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program via a variety of business entities and accounting tricks.
Agents from the auditor office also arrested a former Department of Human Services employee Latimer Smith and Anne McGrew, an accountant for the Mississippi Community Education Center.
It was the culmination of an eight-month investigation that White said is still ongoing. The accused were indicted by a grand jury empaneled by Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens, whose office will prosecute the case.
The auditor’s office said the amount lost in the scam hasn’t been determined, but the loss already exceeds any embezzlement scheme in the office’s records.
According to a scan of the Mississippi Community Education Center’s filings with the IRS, the organization received $26.7 million in government grants in 2017 and $12.9 million in 2016 after receiving nearly $2.4 million from government sources in 2015.
The IRS filings for the Mississippi Community Education Center said the organization’s purpose is for the promotion, improvement, and expansion of community education through training seminars, consulting services, and technical assistance.
Davis and Smith are accused of creating false invoices to pay DiBiase from TANF funds for teaching classes about drug abuse when the former professional wrestler was in a drug rehabilitation center in California at the time and didn’t teach the classes. The invoices were created and payment was rendered despite both knowing that DiBiase was not performing the work.
The News allegedly used the Mississippi Community Education Center to pay for DiBiase’s rehab at the luxury rehab facility called the Rise in Malibu from TANF funds received by the non-profit. Documentation submitted by the News said the funds were used to pay DiBiase for the training sessions that he never conducted.
The News are also accused of transferring millions in TANF funds to their private businesses and then converted funds to their personal use via fund transfers, fraudulent documents, at least one forged signature, and deceptive accounting measures.
The pair allegedly used TANF funds to invest in a pair of medical device companies — Prevacus and PreSolMD — based in Florida.