Former Mississippi DHS Director pleads guilty on state and federal charges tied to welfare fraud case

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Former MDHS Director John Davis pleaded guilty to federal and state charges in court Thursday. Those charges are linked to the case of misspent federal dollars that were intended to help needy Mississippi families.

John Davis didn’t speak leaving the federal courthouse after pleading guilty to two new federal charges: one count of conspiracy and another on theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. But just over an hour later, the judge had questions for him before taking a plea deal on state charges.

His plea deal involved fewer charges than he was originally indicted on but he gave that same “guilty” response for 5 counts of conspiracy and 13 of defrauding the government.

“It was not OK,” said Davis. “And I can’t tell you other than it shouldn’t have been ok. I should not have allowed that to happen. When I knew TANF money was being used, I should have stopped it.”

Brett DiBiase was being paid $250,000 for his salary at Nancy New’s nonprofit MS Community Education Center. That organization was being funded with TANF dollars. DiBiase also held a $48,000 contract with DHS to provide drug addiction education training. But instead of carrying that out, he ended up in a drug rehab facility in Malibu. That $160,000 bill paid for by that same non-profit...something Davis says he was aware was happening.

“I should have maybe helped him outside of the agency and made him a private citizen again rather than trying to help him inside of the agency you know trying to help him with his with his problem,” noted Davis.

“In committing these acts to help someone who didn’t need him to heal and to take away that that was needed by those who didn’t need to help you pay off 32 years to think about that,” said Judge Adrienne Wooten.

The District Attorney says Davis’ plea deal is important in prosecuting the full extent of the welfare scandal.

“As we plead these the people out the accountant for MCEC has pled, Bret DiBiase, Nancy New, Zach New...we continue to go up the ladder as we identify individuals,” said Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens. “We also continue to work with the federal authorities from Washington and in Mississippi to continue to move forward. John Davis is critical because the letter continues to move up.”

Judge Wooten sentenced Davis to spend 32 years in prison. She also ordered him to pay restitution related to the charges that he directly benefited from. But, the state says he’ll serve any time in federal prison. For his federal crimes, Davis faces up to 15 years in federal prison and $500,000 in fines.

He also agreed to forfeit assets he gained as a result of these crimes. He is scheduled to be sentenced for the federal charges by Judge Reeves in February 2023.

Until then, he’s been placed on house arrest by Judge Wooten.

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