Welfare Director Accused of Embezzling Millions From 'Needy Families' in Mississippi

The former director of Mississippi's welfare agency has been arrested, alongside five other people, for allegedly participating in a scheme to embezzle millions of dollars in public funds from a program supporting needy families.

According to The New York Times, State Auditor Shad White's office has accused John Davis, the former Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS), of scheming to steal millions from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Davis was charged alongside former DHS employee Latimer Smith and others, including leadership members at a community education center. Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) owner and director Nancy New and assistant executive director of MCEC Zach New, were also arrested, along with Anne McGrew, an accountant for the center, and another associate, Brett DiBiase—son of wrestling legend "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and a former pro-wrestler himself.

Investigators said the group used multiple approaches to siphon money from the initiative and defraud taxpayers.

In a statement published by WLBT 3, White said: "The funds that were illegally obtained in this case were intended to help the poorest among us."

Instead, however, he said they were "taken by a group of influential people for their own benefit, and the scheme is massive. It ends today."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, the Mississippi Department of Human Services said it was more than aware of the investigation.

"MDHS self-reported the information that initiated this investigation to former Governor Phil Bryant's office in June 2019," the department said. " That report ultimately led to today's arrests."

MDHS also sought to thank the Office of the State Auditor investigators for their efforts to see the investigation through. "We look forward to this moving through the justice system to a final disposition."

Breakfast is served by volunteers at the Seashore Mission which offers services to the homeless and those in need on January 3, 2016 in Biloxi, Mississippi. 'The funds that were illegally obtained in this case were intended to help the poorest among us,' State Auditor Shad White said. Spencer Platt/Getty

According to the Times, White said the investigation had been underway for eight months before the charges.

In a statement, White said he does not "care how politically connected" those involved in the case may be.

"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," he said. "Others doing this kind of thing are on notice: This will not be tolerated now."

Newsweek has contacted the state auditor's office for comment.