(Steve Wilson, The Center Square) A Mississippi native and former professional wrestler, Ted DiBiase Jr., was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday with misappropriating millions of dollars in welfare funds intended for the poor.
The Madison native was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft from programs receiving federal money; six counts of wire fraud; two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds; and four counts of money laundering.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that DiBiase and his alleged co-conspirators — former Mississippi Department of Human Services executive director John Davis, Christi Webb, Nancy New, and others — fraudulently directed funds from the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for their own purposes.
Davis was accused by the government of ordering Webb and New to award sham contracts in 2017 to various individuals and entities for social services, including at least five sham contracts that were awarded to DiBiase’s companies, Priceless Ventures LLC and Familiae Orientem LLC.
The government says in the indictment that DiBiase didn’t provide the contracted services such as speaking engagements and a program for at-risk youth and instead used the funds to buy a boat, a vehicle, and provide a down payment on a house.
He could face penalties of five years for conspiracy, 20 years apiece for each count of wire fraud, and 10 years apiece on each theft count.
“Prosecutors decide whom to charge with a crime, and we’re grateful to see them continuing to advance this case,” said State Auditor Shad White in a statement.
“We will continue to support their efforts with the evidence that our investigators and federal investigators have uncovered.”