Mississippi official pleads guilty in welfare scandal involving Brett Favre. is involved

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A key figure in the Mississippi social spending scandal has pleaded guilty to federal fraud under a scheme indicating he may be cooperating, according to court records.

John Davis ran the Mississippi Welfare Bureau as it distributed millions of dollars in federal welfare money to projects investigators now say were inappropriate, including a new volleyball facility at the request of former NFL quarterback Brett Favre that benefited his daughter.

According to court records, Davis agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and theft — charges that together carry up to 15 years in prison.

“At Davis’s direction,[Mississippi welfare agency]provided federal funds to two nonprofits and then instructed the two nonprofits to fraudulently award contracts to various entities and individuals for social services that were never delivered,” the Justice Department said in a press release. .

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The plea represents the first federal prosecution in the two-year-old scandal, though another lead has been indicted on unrelated federal charges.

Davis worked for the then government. Phil Bryant, who has consistently denied that he was aware that federal assistance funds were being used for the projects, in violation of state and federal laws.

As NBC News previously reported, Davis was involved in discussions with Bryant and Favre about securing millions of dollars for the volleyball facility. Favre also raised $3.2 million for a pharmaceutical company he had invested in, according to court records.

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Nancy New, a former nonprofit executive who is also cooperating after a guilty plea, divided the money in consultation with Davis and the governor, court records show.

In complex investigations, prosecutors often seek the cooperation of a few defendants who they hope will testify against those who led them. The only figure higher than Davis, the welfare director, is Bryant. He has denied the wrongdoing.

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Favre has also denied doing anything through his attorney, who has admitted that Favre was interviewed by the FBI. There is no indication that Favre is the target of the investigation, and he says he does not know that the state grants came from federal welfare funds.

The scandal has sparked outrage, in part because Mississippi is the poorest state in the country and one of the stingiest when it comes to the number of families eligible for federal welfare.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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