Alleged $8 Million Welfare Scam, Explained


Former Green Bay Packers Quarterback and Hall of Famer Brett Favre has been accused of using his “special access” to former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and other officials in his home state in order to influence roughly $8 million in welfare payments for himself, pharmaceutical company Prevacus, and a volleyball court for the University of Southern Mississippi, according to an expose published last week Mississippi Today—though Favre has not been charged criminally or accused of a crime.

Key Facts

Newly unearthed text messages show Favre at the center of a scandal dating back to 2020, when a political appointee of the governor and nonprofit head, among others, were arrested for misusing federal welfare funds, some of which benefitted Favre personally as well as causes with which he was involved.

Between 2016 and 2018, the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center doled out $5 million—allegedly at Favre’s request—to the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre attended and where his daughter also attended and played volleyball, to pay for a new volleyball court, according to Mississippi Today; the nonprofit also paid him $1.1 million to promote a program called Families First.

The funds mostly came from a federal welfare grant program administered by the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and both the head of the nonprofit and the former head of the MDHS have been charged with and pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and fraud for their roles in the scheme.

Prevacus, a pharmaceutical company that was working on a concussion treatment and which Favre was a top investor in, also allegedly received $2.15 million “in allegedly stolen funds” from the scheme, according to Mississippi Today.

Purported text messages obtained by Mississippi Today show that Favre and Prevacus founder Jake Vanlandingham offered the governor and nonprofit director shares of Prevacus and offered to buy the head of MDHS a Ford F-150 Raptor truck in return for their help.

The purported messages also show a request from Favre asking members of the group to help to pay a $1 million debt Favre owed to the University of Southern Mississippi for the volleyball court he promised the school.

Favre declined to be interviewed by Mississippi Today and could not be reached for comment by Forbes, and in 2020 tweeted that he “love[s] Mississippi and I would never knowingly do anything to take away from those that need it most.”

Crucial Quote

“Hey brother [his wife] Deanna and [I] still owe 1.1 million on Vball,” Favre purportedly texted John Davis, the former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, according to Mississippi Today. “Any chance you and Nancy can help with that? They don’t need it at the moment. You and Nancy stuck your neck out for me with jake and Prevacus I know and that’s going to turn out very good I believe.”


Bryant denied introducing Favre or Vanlandingham to the nonprofit director, Nancy New. He also denied knowing Favre and Vanlandingham were receiving public funding for Prevacus, though text messages suggest he knew. Though text messages show Bryant accepted an offer to receive Prevacus shares after he left office, Bryant told Mississippi Today he had no intention of accepting the stock.

Key Background

Up to $70 million was misspent in the scheme, according to Mississippi Today. In 2020, officials said the loss “exceeds any embezzlement scheme in the records of the Auditor’s office.”

Further Reading

‘You stuck your neck out for me’: Brett Favre used fame and favors to pull welfare dollars (Mississippi Today)

Phil Bryant had his sights on a payout as welfare funds flowed to Brett Favre (Mississippi Today)

8 revelations from Part 1 of ‘The Backchannel’ investigation (Mississippi Today)