Nonprofit head pleads guilty in Mississippi welfare fraud
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The former director of a Mississippi nonprofit organization pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to stealing government funds intended to help needy families in one of the poorest states in the U.S., court documents show.
Christi Webb, who stepped down this week as director of the north Mississippi-based Family Resource Center, appeared before U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson. Court documents show Webb pleaded guilty to charges that could send her to prison for up to 10 years.
The federal charges stem from a welfare scandal that has ensnared high-profile figures, including retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who lives in Mississippi.
John Davis, who was Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director from 2016 to mid-2019, pleaded guilty last September to state and federal charges tied to misspending money through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. He has not yet been sentenced.
The Mississippi Department of Human Services last year filed a civil lawsuit to try to recover the millions of dollars of misspent welfare money. Webb and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi are among those being sued. Favre has not faced criminal charges but is one of more than three dozen defendants in the civil lawsuit.
Nancy New and Zachary New, a mother and son who ran another nonprofit organization and an education company, pleaded guilty in April 2022 to state charges of misusing welfare money, including on lavish gifts such as first-class airfare for Davis. The News’ organization also funneled welfare money to be used on drug rehab for Brett DiBiase, a former pro wrestler and friend of Davis who has pleaded guilty to state and federal fraud charges.
Welfare money helped fund pet projects of the wealthy, including $5 million for a volleyball arena that Favre supported at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, the state auditor said. Favre’s daughter played volleyball at the school starting in 2017.
A sentencing hearing for Webb has been set for June 16.
This story has been corrected to state that Webb is the former, not current, director of the Family Resource Center.
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.
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