Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Where Did the Welfare Money Go?

The Mississippi Community Education Center apparently spent millions of TANF funds on fitness trainers, leases, paying famous employees, advertising, and other forms of largess.  The leadership of MCEC is under indictment for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars in TANF funds obtained through DHS grants.  However, MCEC fire back and said it acted under DHS approval and direction. 


The Clarion-Ledger reported DHS awarded $55 million in TANF funds to MCEC since 2015. The newspaper stated: 

Mississippi denied welfare to thousands of poor residents and showered that money on a nonprofit that spent millions on advertising, resort hotels, steak dinners, plane tickets, a lobbyist and a Christian rock star, records obtained by the Clarion Ledger show.

Over a recent nine-month period, more than $1.3 million was paid to private companies owned by the nonprofit’s founder, Nancy New, and her family. Tens of thousands of dollars more was spent on travel expenses for former professional wrestlers Brett DiBiase and Ted "The Million Dollar Man" DiBiase Sr. ...
 MCEC used welfare money to rent space for “Families First” centers at properties owned by the New family. The nonprofit paid $454,905 in rent to Avalon Holdings, a company that lists only one member in state documents: Nancy New. MCEC also paid $125,000 to a consulting company called Magnolia Strategies as well as $31,500 in rent to a real estate company called 204 Key, LLC. Both companies list only one member: Jess New, Nancy New's son. She also spent more than $2,100 on car repairs....

The article also states more expenditures were made: 

* $104,974 to Marcus Dupree
*  Christian rocker Jason Crabb got $85,000
* Keeping in shape is very important.  Paul Lacosts got $1.2 million for his non-profit company. 

Several hundred thousand dollars were spent on lobbyists and advertising as well. Read the article for a complete list of expenditures.  $1 million was spent at the Cirlot Advertising Agency. 

Meanwhile, Anna Wolfe dug up some interesting facts on Marcus Dupree's purchase of  a Madison County home.  She reported: 

In April of 2018, less than a year after he partnered with the welfare-funded Families First program, the Dupree foundation purchased a five bedroom, 4,114 square foot residence in Flora. The county assessed the value of the property at approximately $395,000 for tax purposes while the foundation’s initial mortgage on the property totaled $64,000. One widely used real-estate site, Zillow, estimates the property’s value at nearly $900,000.

The same day, one of the Families First nonprofits, Mississippi Community Education Center, entered a six-year lease agreement to rent the ranch for $9,500. The rental payments were assigned to the bank as collateral for the loan; the agreement essentially promised to pay the mortgage for its term.

Dupree also earned at least $100,000 from the nonprofit as an employee on payroll.
 
The rent agreement for the Dupree property, attached to the deed in the county land records office, says Mississippi Community Education Center would continue to secure the bank loan until Mar. 31, 2024, unless the agreement is terminated. There is no termination filed within the deed record.

The Dupree foundation’s listed website is defunct and it does not appear to have filed the required nonprofit financial forms; no records appear on the IRS tax exempt organization search engine or on other databases Mississippi Today checked. Rest of article.
 

MCEC pointed the finger right back at DHS:

The Mississippi Community Education Center ("MCEC") is a Mississippi 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In 2018, MCEC was engaged by the Mississippi Department of Human Services ("MDHS") to serve as one of two state-wide programmatic services providers for MDHS's Families First for Mississippi program. The programs and services implemented through Families First were funded primarily through TANF funds provided to MDHS by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("USHHS").

The traditional programmatic pillars of MDHS's Families First program included providing support for individuals and families alike in the areas of education, parenting, youth development, job readiness and literacy. In addition to these traditional services, executive leadership within MDHS also directed MCEC to fund and support numerous non-traditional special projects. Many of the directives to engage in and fund these special projects came from individuals who remain current members of MDHS's executive leadership team. These non-traditional projects included, but were not limited to funding various lease agreements on behalf of MDHS, supporting local ministries in their efforts to assist disadvantaged youth, supporting the development of virtual reality programs for education, various partnerships with colleges and universities, support for health, nutrition and wellness initiatives, support for leadership development curriculum and entrepreneurship training. MCEC was also directed by MDHS leadership to cover expenses associated with certain concert series, various consulting expenses and hotel and conference expenses for MDHS events.

As directed by MDHS, often times MCEC provided funding for these events out of its own operational budgets, with the promise that said funding would be reimbursed by MDHS. MDHS currently owes MCEC a substantial amount of money in reimbursement expenses.

There has been a great proliferation of misinformation and inaccuracies reported upon within the media. The inaccurate and incomplete information that continues to dribble out is having the effect of smearing MCEC’s name and the credibility and reputations of its leadership. The reporting appears biased and ignores the actions and responsibilities of others while leaving MCEC solely in the bullseye of public outrage. MCEC has at all times relied upon the guidance of MDHS staff in the implementation and support of the programs provided by MCEC on behalf of MDHS, both of a traditional and non-traditional nature. At no time did MCEC provide funding or support to any program, service or project without the guidance and approval of MDHS staff and leadership. In fact, any funding and support provided by MCEC to a particular program, service or project was generally expressly directed by MDHS.

We understand that the Office of the State Auditor continues to conduct the State of Mississippi's Annual Single Audit. It is MCEC's sincere hope that a complete and thorough audit of MDHS has been undertaken by the State Auditor, to include MDHS internally and all MDHS partners who engaged in the Families First for Mississippi program, in addition to all traditional and non-traditional projects engaged in and operated on MDHS's behalf.

We have had the privilege of working with many of you for years. You know the value of the programs that MCEC uses to serve the community and the positive impact those programs and the individuals involved with them have had in the lives of many Mississippians. We have always been proud to work beside you and it is our sincere hope that we are able to continue that work in the future.


Kingfish note: What do I think about this case? I see several possible scenarios as to what happened.

* The News were in cahoots with John Davis to loot DHS grants.  Hire the friends, dole out the dough, and live high on the hog while the gettin' is good.   Does ITD ring a bell?

* A woman who is highly respected builds up a special needs school and creates programs to help those less fortunate.  Junior thinks he hit a triple when he was born on third, gets the keys to the car, and drives it into the proverbial ditch. Mommy is dragged into it and is thus complicit (See Fraziers). 

* The News were very sloppy.  The District Attorney asked the Circuit Court to freeze one bank account.  I have wondered if being rookies, they co-mingled funds.  Such is what happened to David Watkins.  David Watkins was a lawyer playing developer.  He didn't know what he was doing.  Instead of creating various LLC's with separate bank accounts for his various projects, he used one bank account for his projects.  Thus money for one project was deposited with the funds for another.  Bond funds wound up in a Meridian project and presto, he is in trouble and can't account for the funds.  

 Did the News make a similar mistake and co-mingle funds to the point a proper accounting could not take place?  It is a cardinal rule of grants that all grant funds should be tracked and monitored. 

* The Phil Bryant crew ran this show and turned her out when it looked like it was going to hit the fan.  Phil Bryant is not known for his loyalty to others.  His crew didn't award grants and contracts unless they got something out of it or could help someone.  Did they gave grants to MCEC and then made it clear who was to get the benefits?  Stuff hits the fan, leaving the News and John Davis holding the bag.  Phil Bryant always acted like new money, easily dazzled by star power.  Hence his attraction to President Trump.  It would just be like Phil to try to ingratiate himself with Brett Favre and the Dibiases.  If it helps out Southern Miss, so much the better. 

One question that should be asked is did Davis or any of Phil Bryant's crew order the News to take some of these questionable actions.  

Ms. New hired a forensic accounting team that spent two weeks going over the books after the indictments were served.  Don't be surprised if there is a counterattack. 



48 comments:

Anonymous said...

when the feds give mississippi millions for welfare, the state should just put the stinking money in an account and dole out checks to the so-called needy. use the KISS principal , otherwise known as ''keep it simple stupid''. i don't deny 75% of the welfare checks will get spent on drugs, alcohol , hair salons and nike air jordans, but the problem with embezzlement begins when you start handing all that money over to these non-profit do gooder organizations who think they can ''talk'' and '' counsel'' the so called needy , out of their screwed up situations. i got news for you. that's like trying to talk a heroin addict out of being a junkie. riding horses with marcus dupree is not goning to solve the problems of such people. just give the so-called poor a check and walk away.

Anonymous said...

These bible thumping small government conservatives should have summoned the people this money was intended to help to gather round a burn barrel. The "friends and family" in on these deals could have thrown the money into the burn barrel and burned it. The heat might have helped keep those who needed the help warm for a little while.

The chosen few were far too greedy to do this.

Anonymous said...

Remember, "The poor you will always have with you but you will not always have the MCEC or my friends, family, cronies, USM volleyball, my nail salon, resort, vacation home or other charitable causes except for a short time..."

Also

"Spend it not on the poor, but poorly."

Anonymous said...

A lot of haters are going to talk shit but the truth is the News were smart. Having non-profits is how rich people stay rich.

Why do you think every celebrity and politician has a charity? And most of them are bogus "climate change" and "end hunger" charities that will never show results.

The reason these people are being punished is because their laundered lucre came from the tax payer. But the real travesty is how much tax money is available to waste on worthless endeavors such as whatever they claimed to be doing.

Anonymous said...

Time for a claw back!

Anonymous said...

The News would have to be incredibly stupid to come up with all of them by themselves and not think it would go unnoticed. It was so brazen that they had to assume somebody had their back or somebody much higher was pulling the strings. I'm not saying Bryant, but I'm not saying not Bryant either.

Anonymous said...

the CL finally does a piece worthy of a click, and it's behind a pay wall. its like when a tree falls in the woods but nobody is around to hear it.

Anonymous said...

To 12:00: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

Anonymous said...

https://www.bryantsongysnell.com/

Anonymous said...

Having known John Davis, book it that he was intimately involved. No doubt about that. And who do you think has the leverage between a man holding the keys to a hundred million in grant funds and the organization that needs that money to operate. The News definitely aren’t guiltless, but this bizarre misdirection of money to looney toon projects is all John Davis. - Anonymous

Anonymous said...

What's this bryantsongysmell.com? Will I catch something? We need more details.

Anonymous said...

@12:34
A personal attack is not an argument. Try again.

Anonymous said...

Mississippi's statesmen can hold their own with Chicago's most corrupt

https://www.djournal.com/news/state-indicts-aldridges-with-embezzling-from-relative-s-estate/article_bc9a42a0-f0e2-56b2-b888-193ea9609e5b.html

and get away with it, then bury the story deep in the www.

Anonymous said...

“$1 million was spent at the Cirlot Advertising Agency.“.
Isn’t this the same company that was involved with the failed/criminal activities of the so called Venture Capital boondoggle 20-25 years ago?

Anonymous said...

Turns out Dupree is not as dumb as most thought, tip of the hat
To Mr. Dupree.

Anonymous said...

Supertalk, Supertalk, Gallo, Supertalk.

Anonymous said...

KF I’m sure it would require turning on some current political allies, but if you really care about rooting out corruption, you should do a deep dive into SuperTalk’s connection to all of this. I have no doubt it was a quid pro quo. You help us legitimize this boondoggle by bragging about it on the Gallo show and running our ads 24/7, and you’ll get a nice steady stream of ad revenue straight out of the welfare coffers. Dare you to post this. Wonder if you will.

Anonymous said...

Frontier Strategies comes to mind as one of the few with the connections to pull off million dollar ad campaigns using taxpayer money. You want a softball question thrown to you on Supertalk, you better be on their side. Supertalk is their mouthpiece.

Anonymous said...

OK, 1:05, I'll try again. To say that looting charities is "how rich people stay rich" an inaccurate and incredibly jaded way of looking, from the outside in, at people of whom we are perhaps envious and jealous. Moreover, that perspective attempts to normalize and validate otherwise acceptable conduct, and recast it as a virtue of some sort, as if all will be made right if the goal of wealth is achieved.

I sometimes wonder about people who have achieved vast material success at the expense of others. On their deathbed, do they feel victorious, or do they feel the weight of their sin?

-12:34

Anonymous said...

You can take it to the bank, so to speak, that a chunk of this money ended up in some politician's pocket.

Anonymous said...

2:03, they don't just guarantee ad dollars from welfare funds, they control the campaign coffers from many of the state-wide officials with multi-million dollar war chests. They can throw millions behind you. Or at you.

Can you say conflict?

Anonymous said...

Shad should have turned this whole case over to the Feds. There are a lot of dominoes to fall in this matter. The fact that his office doesn't have the manpower to do the forensic audit tells you the size of this investigation.

Anonymous said...

"I sometimes wonder about people who have achieved vast material success at the expense of others. On their deathbed, do they feel victorious, or do they feel the weight of their sin?"

Are you kidding? Prosperity Gospel. I guarantee many of the people involved "worship" at one of the numerous churches that preach Prosperity Gospel. They not only earned it, but they deserve it, too! Who knew serving the Lord was so profitable? Someone should have told that Jesus fellow he was a fool. Why live po' when you can live in a suburban McMansion at a cut rate!

Bottom Line said...

Bottom Line: As always, Phil Bryant and Supertalk will skate like a flat rock across a slick pond.

Anonymous said...

@ Bottom Line. Some things they can skate from. Not sure how they intend to skate from the covid-19.

Anonymous said...

If only we had another viable political party to hold Feel and Co. accountable. Instead we have his heir on the throne and his minions in the legislature.

Anonymous said...

Before everyone goes completely breathless over the largess of Nancy New and the reported spending of welfare dollars you need to understand Federal grants. DHS received funding from the Feds to carryout certain functions according to an Administrative plan outlining how the money would be spent and how DHS planned to administer the grants. DHS would then announce the availability of the funds, the purpose and the administrative rules. Proposals would be received by DHS and funds would be awarded. Accompanying each grant would be an amount of money, usually a percentage of the grant, for administrative cost, both direct and indirect. During the life of the grant DHS would be required to receive quarterly reports on the performance of the grant that covered spending amounts for the previous quarter, scope of work achievements and any deviations on performance or spending. At completion of the grant DHS is required to report all facets of performance and financials to the Feds. So, in saying all of this, DHS and the Feds have a lot of explaining to do along with MCEM. But if MCEM can show that they managed the grants per DHS oversight it’s going to be difficult to lay blame on MCEM. The investigative reporters that are getting inside tidbits from DHS or the State Auditors need to go back and start with the CFR on the grants, the awards to the state and the grant awards to MCEM.

Anonymous said...

Phil and Gallo been kissing each other's arse for decades.

Anonymous said...

5:24- Thank you for that brief summary of grant oversight. But as someone who has been up close and personal with that process, let me say that you can conceal a whole lot of stuff in generic buckets, and nobody has the time to comb through all the invoices and all the supporting documentation. Somebody had to blow the whistle to cause further investigation.

No way any blame falls on Feds here. Both MDHS and MCEC knowingly misspent this money for bogus purposes and for their own enrichment. At the end of the day, it really was a handful of people deciding how to spend millions. I assure you. Between the CFR and the reality falls the shadow my son.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:24 Could it be like deja vu all over again? Certainly it won't be like the DMR scandal? All that got fixed. Right?

Post your best speculations right here at JJ!

Who will be the highest ranking state employee getting a club fed vacation this time?

How about the most influential outsider fatcat going to club fed?

Anyone connected enough to rate a presidential pardon?


BONUS FLASHBACK!

YOUTUBE: State auditor Stacey Pickering says DMR probe may reveal 'culture of corruption' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQQOmt-y9Ik

Anonymous said...

to 5;24....wow, thats pretty beefy prose you got there. maybe you can be a defense witness at trial.

Anonymous said...

I don’t mind Dupree gettin his.

Anonymous said...

If only we had another viable political party ...

Thank goodness we don't. EVERYTHING the Donkeycrats touch turns to absolutely crap.

Anonymous said...

@5:24 what’s CFR?

Anonymous said...

Now I’m wondering did Deputy Director Mark Smith get the boot or jumped ship at MDHS? I’m sure John Davis had to get him out of the way to pull off this shigity.

Retired Brigadier General Mark Smith was well liked and respected at MDHS and was in no way involved! I’ll bet my 13th check on that!

Anonymous said...

When the reader is too dense to be able to process what the writer's intent is...labels the prose beefy...and misses that the writer is attempting to point the investigative reporters in the right direction...that's not uncommon here at JJ.

Others of us appreciate the comment at 7:24 for what it actually is.

A sic em.

Anonymous said...

to 7:24........too dense you say? investigative reporters are the last thing that ms new and her band of merry men need to be worried about. go lay all that beef on a federal grand jury and see what it gets you............a small cell upstate.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure 5:24 used CFR for Code of Federal Regulations.

Someone said...

7:41...what did Dupree ever do to deserve squat...he played football. Big hairy deal. Nobody “deserves” anything. These funds were actually intended to help/assist people in dire need. But, instead, the funds lined wealthy people’s pockets and less than 2% of the needy actually received anything. I hope the Christian coalition and right wing holier than thous are happy. This is disgusting. All of it.

Anonymous said...

Phil Bryant ordered John Davis to fund these projects. It'll all come out.

Anonymous said...

Phil Bryant knew about it all, it was great for him. Take a look back at all the pictures taken and publicity shots with Nancy New. It is disgusting, Phil and Deb used Nancy New ,then threw her under the bus! He is a user! liar and disloyal! I can’t wait to see him go down in history as the Vienna sausage eating, Aqua Velva smelling redneck that he truly is, screw him!

Anonymous said...

I didn’t get the connection to Paul Lacoste in the original
Post . Did the New family hire him for 1.2 million dollars ??? 😳

Anonymous said...

Paul Lacoste.... $1.2 million????
He is a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Look at the ties between Mr. Speaker and the Dibiase tribe.

Anonymous said...

I believe I read that the money paid to Lacoste's non profit was used to fund physical fitness training camps all over the state that were free to Mississippi residents. The idea was to help improve the health and physical fitness of Mississippians…especially lower income residents who otherwise could not afford to attend a training camp. And, given our obesity rate (and the health complications and associated healthcare expense that arise therefrom) I think this may have been the ONE program that actually did some good.

Anonymous said...

to 8;52....................so the poor need ''fitness training camps'' too fight obesity? you need to understand something mister. in most of the world the poor dont have an obesity problem. in the 3nd world and the developing world its the rich that are fat , not the poor. in the USA its just the opposite. this why i wanna puke when i hear about ''hunger in america''. no-one in america is hungry. however, they are in a sense, malnourished due to the shit they eat. americans, especially the so-called poor, have the worst diet of anyone on the planet.
i live in a small country in the carribbean. call it a developing nation. here you dont see a obesity epidemic amongst the poor cause they exist on a diet of simple ,yet fresh, whole food. no one needs ''fitness training camps''. the only thing that will reduce obesity among the poor in the usa is when their diet is changed .

Anonymous said...

I’m not surprised of the misappropriation. We’ve had a foster kid since January and have not received one cent! He came to our house with a bag of maybe 4 raggedy items of clothing. We should have received a clothing allowance check at least! When we asked the social work supervisor about the funds, she quoted policy.” It has to be requested”! When we asked numerous times, wasn’t that a request? Then she stated the book keeper was out. I’ll bet she received her freeking check! CPS then sent our funds card to our physical address instead of our mailing address. This has not been corrected, more red tape!

It’s almost the end of March and no clothing allowance or funds card from CPS.

Yesterday our foster child said to me, G-POP I’m so glad you came into my life!

One good came out of this ordeal with CPS we are making an impact on a young life! Shame on you, Warren County CPS.

Some of the same $$$$$$ that was misappropriated, for bullshit , can’t get to our family for our foster child!

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced Phil Bryant is smart enough to figure out how to steal money. He's never shown me the first damn ounce of sense, common or otherwise. He may have rolled over for a belly-scratch, but he ain't got enough sense to hike his leg.

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