Unsealed indictment alleges former Mississippi wrestler used millions in welfare dollars to buy vehicle, boat, house and other personal benefits
Published 1:41 pm Thursday, April 20, 2023
A federal indictment was unsealed Wednesday alleging that a former Mississippi wrestler used millions of welfare dollars to purchase a vehicle and a boat, make a down payment on a house, among other expenditures.
The indictment charges Theodore Marvin DiBiase Jr., 40, of Madison, with misappropriating millions of dollars in federal safety-net funds intended for needy families and low-income individuals in Mississippi.
According to court documents, DiBiase, along with co-conspirators John Davis, Christi Webb, Nancy New, and others, are alleged to have fraudulently obtained federal funds – including from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program – that they misappropriated for their own personal use and benefit.
Davis was the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). As part of the alleged scheme, after federal funds were issued to MDHS, Davis directed MDHS to subgrant the funds to two nonprofit organizations, Family Resource Center of North Mississippi Inc. (FRC) and Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC), which were operated by Webb and New, respectively. Davis then allegedly directed Webb and New to award sham contracts to various individuals and entities purportedly for the delivery of social services, including at least five sham contracts that were awarded to DiBiase’s companies, Priceless Ventures LLC and Familiae Orientem LLC.
As further alleged in the indictment, under these sham contracts, FRC and MCEC provided millions of dollars in federal funds from MDHS to DiBiase and his companies for social services that DiBiase did not provide and did not intend to provide. DiBiase allegedly used these federal funds to buy a vehicle and a boat, and for the down payment on the purchase of a house, among other expenditures.
DiBiase is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and four counts of money laundering. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and for each count of money laundering.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca for the Southern District of Mississippi, Special Agent in Charge Jermicha Fomby of the FBI Jackson Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Tamala Miles of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Special Agent in Charge Dax Roberson of the Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG), and Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey of the IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI, HHS-OIG, USDA-OIG, and IRS-CI are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Adrienne E. Rosen of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, Trial Attorney Della Sentilles of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dave Fulcher and John Meynardie for the Southern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the case.