Federal indictment unsealed in case against former Miss. wrestler tied to TANF scandal
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A federal indictment was unsealed Wednesday showing that a former Mississippi wrestler is being accused of using welfare dollars to purchase a vehicle and board and make a down payment on a home.
The indictment is against Ted DiBiase Jr., one of several co-conspirators tied to the misuse of millions of dollars in funds designed to help needy families.
He is facing one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and four counts of money laundering related to the misuse of millions of dollars in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Emergency Food Assistance Program funding.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud, 10 years in prison on each count of theft and money laundering and five years for conspiracy.
Scott Gilbert, attorney for DiBiase said Thursday was a good day for his client.
“After being forced to sit quietly for nearly three years while opportunists took unabated swings at Teddy and his family, Teddy now has the opportunity to fight back publicly,” he said. “As much as every one of us have the right to decide for ourselves whether our government is effective or prudent in the way it carries out its functions, criminalizing what, in hindsight, may be fairly characterized as poor fiscal management by the executive branch of state government is a dangerous and worrisome precedent.”
“We are confident that when this process is finished, it will be clear that the government’s theory is misguided and that their allegations cannot be substantiated, as they pertain to Teddy DiBiase.”
Meanwhile, DiBiase and his wife Kristen have agreed to sell their home at 115 Rosedowne Bend, in Madison.
The home, which is in the Reunion subdivision, is said to have been involved in a transaction violating United States Code.
On June 20, 2020, the federal government filed a verified complaint for forfeiture seeking the rights, title and interest in the property.
Court records state the U.S. Marshals Service “will sell the defendant property in a commercially reasonable manner on behalf of the parties, handling all aspects of the sale in accordance with existing policies.”
According to the indictment, DiBiase, through his companies, “entered into at least five sham contracts” with the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and the Mississippi Community Education Center, two charities at the heart of the scandal.
The indictment says that John Davis, the former head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, directed the FRC and MCEC to “disburse full or almost full payments to DiBiase and his companies... regardless of whether any work had been performed and knowing that no work likely ever would be performed.”
DiBiase is the owner of Priceless Ventures LLC and majority owner of Familae Orientem LLC.
Contracts include a May 15, 2018, a $500,000 agreement between Priceless and FRC to provide “leadership outreach services,” a $497,987 contract between Priceless and FRC to “assess the need for emergency food assistance,” and a $250,000 agreement with MCEC to “purportedly to deliver services for MCEC.”
Also, “on or about June 26, 2018, the day after the formation of Familae in Wyoming, FRC entered into a sham contract with Dibiase for approximately $1,000,000, purportedly to create the RISE Program to address the needs of inner-city youth.”
The former wrestler used the funds for “the purchase of a vehicle, the purchase of a boat, and the down payment for the purchase of a house,” the indictment states.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, the Department of Health and Humsan Services, the United States Department Agriculture and the Internal Revenue Service.
Thursday’s announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr., and others.
State Auditor Shad White praised federal officials for advancing the investigation. “Prosecutors decide whom to charge with a crime, and we’re grateful to see them continuing to advance this case,” he said. “We will continue to support their efforts with the evidence that our investigators and federal investigators have uncovered.”
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