With HB1020 as law, Hinds DA would be blocked from arresting state welfare fraud thieves

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On Feb. 5 2020, State Auditor Shad White asked Hinds Co. District Attorney Jody Owens to arrest Nancy New, her son Zach, DHS Director John Davis, and three others in the largest welfare theft in Mississippi’s history.

White said he decided to partner with Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens in order to move as quickly as possible.

“We did not want any more money to flow to individuals who were fraudulently obtaining that money,” White said. “So, we felt that the most efficient way to put a stop to this was to do it in state court here with District Attorney Owens and we’ve got complete confidence in his team to handle this.”

Owens, however, would not have had the authority to arrest these government criminals if House Bill 1020 had been in place in 2020. HB1020 specifically bars Jackson-Hinds courts and law enforcement from assuming jurisdiction over crimes involving state government officials.

Figures like current governor Tate Reeves, former governor Phil Bryant, and ex-pro-football player Brett Favre are all accused of arranging the theft of tens of millions of  the federal welfare money sent to Mississippi in recent years.  Bryant leaned on John Davis and Nancy New to give Favre in excess of $8 million for speaking fees (for speeches never made), a pledge to build a volleyball arena at University of Southern Mississippi, and at least a $2.3 million investment in a proposed drug manufacturing venture named Prevacus.

Reeves, who has been charged with giving his personal fitness trainer Paul Lacoste millions of dollars in stolen TANF money, fired investigator Brad Pigott, a former U.S. Attorney, when he uncovered the thefts.

Representative Trey Lamar of Senatobia gives the proposed appointed Capital Complex Improvement District’s “inferior courts” precedence over the elected Hinds district’s “superior courts,” the Circuit and Chancery court justices in the greater Jackson area.

The bill also disregards the constitutional rights of the 175,000 residents of Jackson and draws a cordon around a select group of white residents of the city and Hinds County.

Section 13 of HB1020 thumbs its nose at the U. S. Constitution.

“If any section, paragraph, sentence, clause, phrase or any part of this act is declared to be unconstitutional or void,” the bill reads, “or if for any reason is declared to be invalid or of no effect, the remaining sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, phrases or  parts of this act shall be in no manner affected thereby but shall remain in full force and effect.”

One of the senior Democrats in the House asked why Trey Lamar doesn’t clean up his own house in Tate County rather than trying to play overlord to the people of Jackson. The largest mass murder in Mississippi in this century took place only 20 miles from Lamar’s front door in Senatobia, a murder on Feb. 12 that took the lives of six in Arkabutla in Tate County.

“I don’t care how politically connected a person may be,” Auditor White said at the time of the arrests of the six confessed criminals. “You do not have the right to treat taxpayer money as your own or to lie to the taxpayers about what you’re doing with that money. Others doing this kind of thing are on notice: This will not be tolerated now.”


Former football pro and fitness trainer Paul Lacoste, Reeves’ personal trainer,  had a long-term relationship with Reeves, running back to his days as state treasurer and lieutenant governor. The investigator’s report shows that Lacoste received $1.3 million of TANF welfare money after Reeves leaned on John Davis in 2019 while Reeves was Lt. Governor. 

In 2020, Lacoste – who reportedly was not liked very much by Davis because of his constant badgering of Reeves for millions from the welfare funds – submitted a plan to get $13 million, yes $13 million, from TANF funds after Reeves moved into the governor’s office.

 “As Tate Reeves’ coach for 15 years, I’ve seen sweat pouring off his face and those glasses of Tate’s fogged up from intensity,” Lacoste said.

To accommodate Lacoste in his quest for money, Davis texted his deputy Jacob Black with the curt request: “Do you have about $2.5 million you can get transferred to MCEC?” 

Investigator Pigott, who was fired by Reeves after uncovering these insider thefts, said there was never the intention of using the money for the public good. 

“Lacoste never proposed or intended to provide services designed specifically to accomplish any lawful TANF purpose,” Pigott said. “Nor did he ever do so in response to the TANF funding he and Victory Sports (Lacoste’s company) sought and received.” 


Beginning in 1996 when he was appointed state auditor after Democrat Steve Paterson was sent to prison for embezzlement, Bryant was the mastermind behind the scheme to channel over 95 percent of the federal welfare funds away from the working mothers and needy children of the state to wealthy government insiders. He continued to guide the multi-million dollar rip-off system after being elected as state auditor, lieutenant governor, and governor – a 26-year long career of theft and inhumanity to the poor people of Mississippi. 

Congressman Bennie Thompson continues to call for the indictment or arrest of former Gov. Phil Bryant for his central role in this theft that continues today under Reeves. 

“The people of Mississippi deserve answers and accountability for breaking the law must be upheld for all who were involved: especially for Governor Bryant,” Thompson wrote in a July 22, 2022 letter to US Attorney General Merritt Garland.

“In 2018, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) received $135 million in TANF dollars, yet $77 million of those dollars were misdirected due to the influence of the governor’s office. The governor’s influence was blatantly apparent in a conversation between retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre and a contractor regarding the new MDHS Director, Christopher Freeze’s attentiveness to where funds were being directed. In the text message conversation, Brett Favre referred to another conversation where the new director was classified as ‘not being their type’, the contractor responded, ‘well we may need the governor to make him our type’! Governor Phil Bryant has clearly taken actions consistent with ensuring Mississippi’s poorest citizens are denied welfare funds meant to benefit their households.”

Bryant, whose wife was a friend of Nancy New and also an alumna of the University of Southern Mississippi, made sure that Favre’s pledge of $5 million to build a volleyball arena at USM was kept, even though it was built with the illegal federal welfare money and at the expense of thousands of hungry and poorly housed Black mothers and children.


Rodney Bennett, the former president of the University of Southern Mississippi, told the Washington Post in September 2022 that Bryant and Favre knew they were acting outside the boundaries of the law. 

Bennett says he “asked Brett not to do the things he’s doing to seek funding from state agencies and the legislature for the volleyball facility.”

 “The bottom line is he personally guaranteed the project, and on his word and handshake we proceeded. It’s time for him to pay up – it really is just that simple,” Bennett texted Bryant.

“Maybe he wants the state to pay off his promises,” Bryant responded. “Like all of us, I like Brett. He is a legend but he has to understand what a pledge means. I have tried many time[s] to explain that to him.”

According to the latest court filing, Favre had texted Bryant in July 2019: “I have to come up with a lot of money if this doesn’t get clearance.”

Bryant leaned on John Davis and Nancy New to grant Favre’s requests. Favre, nevertheless, was careful to keep his actions out of the public light.

“If you were to pay me,” he asked Nancy New, “is there any way the media can find out where it came from and how much?”

New said “no,” but State Auditor Shad White and Hinds DA Jody Owens brought a halt to New’s gang racketeering when they arrested her and five accomplices on Feb. 5, 2020. 


The six suspects, now confessed criminals, arrested by Auditor White and Hinds DA Jody Owens on Feb. 5, 2020 are now free on bond while waiting to testify in the federal courts before being sentenced to prison, according to Jamie McBride, Owens’ assistant DA:

John Davis was appointed director of DHS by former Gov. Phil Bryant in January 2016. In July 2019, he announced he would resign by the end of the month.  “I now have the opportunity to focus on my family at home and pursue a position outside of state government,” Davis wrote in a statement announcing his resignation. Davis is accused of creating fake invoices for DiBiase and for “creating a fraud scheme to take TANF funds to pay for personal investments in medical device companies.”

Brett DiBiase was a former professional wrestler with World Wrestling Entertainment, who later worked at DHS as the deputy director of transformational change, according to his LinkedIn page.

Nancy New was the owner and director of the Mississippi Community Education Center and New Learning, Inc. She also founded New Summit, a private school in Jackson. New is accused of using TANF funds for her personal use as well as for investing in private medical device companies.

Zach New, Nancy’s son, is the assistant executive director of the Mississippi Community Education Center and is also accused of using TANF funds for personal use as well as for investing in private medical device companies.

Latimer Smith is a former employee of DHS.

Anne McGrew is the accountant for the Mississippi Community Education Center. 

The federal prosecutors have a list of 38 other perpetrators awaiting trial in the massive TANF theft. The feds will use the testimony of the six already confessed criminals in the upcoming court trials.  McBride reassures the public that none of the people arrested will get a get-out-of-jail free pass.

“They will serve their time,” McBride said. “The federal courts are pretty strict about that.”

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With HB1020 as law, Hinds DA would be blocked from arresting state welfare fraud thieves

By Earnest McBride
February 24, 2023