Brett Favre, others used $5 million of welfare money to fund volleyball stadiumNewly-released text messages shed light on the ongoing welfare fraud scandal involving former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and nonprofit founder Nancy New.\n\nThe texts were first revealed in an investigative piece for Mississippi Today. The texts reveal how Favre, Bryant and New collaborated to funnel at least $5 million of Mississippi’s welfare funds to construct a state-of-the-art volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM).\n\nUSM is Favre’s alma mater and his daughter, Breleigh, played volleyball at the college around the time some of the text messages were sent, as reported by the New York Post.\n\nThe texts were filed on Monday, September 12 as part of an ongoing civil state investigation. New, the founder of the nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, submitted the text messages as part of her plea deal. New plead guilty to 13 counts including bribery, fraud and racketeering.\n\nNew’s organization was in charge of spending “flexible federal welfare” money outside of the public view. Forensic auditors for the state found that the leaders misspent at least $77 million in funds, some of which was used for the stadium.According to the texts, Bryant guided Favre on how to write a funding proposal for the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). Mississippi Today provided a detailed timeline of how the fraud scandal unfolded.\n\nOn July 24, 2017, Favre first asked MDHS for funding. By this point Favre’s plans were already in the works. However, due to a policy at USM “any construction project had to be funded fully and the money deposited into USM’s account before construction could begin,” as reported by Mississippi Today.\n\nDue to strict laws about using MDHS funds for construction projects, the parties wrote an agreement that seemed to be offering support for needy families, but was designed to circumvent the laws.\n\nFavre got the money. However, he quickly grew annoyed with the slow pace of construction. On August 3, 2017, Favre reached out to Bryant for assistance. Bryant then contacted New.\n\n“Wow,” New texted Favre the next day. “Just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He is on board with us! We will get this done!”\n\nBryant remained on board with the project, but the construction costs continued to rise.\n\nIn June 2019, Bryant fired John Davis, the director of MDHS, who raised concerns about suspected fraud within the agency. Davis was replaced by Christopher Freeze, a former FBI special agent.\n\nOn July 16, 2019, Favre inquired about whether Freeze’s appointment would affect the project. Bryant assured him that the plan was still viable.\n\n“I will handle that… long story but had to make a change,” Bryant texted Favre. “But I will call Nancy and see what it will take.\n\n“Just left Brett Favre,” Bryant texted New. “Can we help him with this project. [sic] We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep our projects on course.”On August 16, 2019, Bryant told New via Favre that she would need to submit the “proper paperwork” to MDHS and that she would have to “reword” the current proposal. New seemed confused about the governor’s message.\n\n“Hopefully she can put more details in the proposal,” Bryant wrote via Favre. “Like how many times the facility will be used and how many child [sic] will be served and for what specific purpose.”\n\n“Confidential… do you get the impression that the governor will help us?” New texted Favre.\n\n“I really feel like he is trying to figure out a way to get it done without actually saying it,” Favre responded.\n\nAccording to the New York Post, the State of Mississippi gave Favre about $1.1 million between 2017 and 2018 to deliver speeches that he would never make. The money was drawn from the welfare funds. \n\nThe state auditor forced Favre to repay the money with interest. Favre repaid the initial amount, but not the interest. The $1.1 million was apparently a way to get more funding for the volleyball stadium.\n\nDespite the stadium being funded through fraudulent means, it is not mentioned in the court filings. State Attorney Brad Piggott tried to subpoena documents regarding the stadium, but was abruptly fired by current Mississippi Tate Reeves.\n\nPigott believes his firing was “politically motivated,” but Reeves did not give a straight answer as to his justification for ousting Pigott.\n\nFavre has long denied any involvement with the ongoing scandal, but was questioned by the FBI earlier this month.