Former Director of DHS and others arrested in largest public embezzlement case in Mississippi history

News

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Special agents from the office of State Auditor Shad White have arrested John Davis, the former Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, former DHS employee Latimer Smith, Dr. Nancy New, owner and Director of the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and New Learning, Inc., Zach New, Assistant Executive Director of MCEC, Anne McGrew, accountant for MCEC, and Brett DiBiase in connection with a multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme. The indictments include a range of violations involving fraud and embezzlement.

After an eight month investigation, auditors found the accused conspired to illegally obtain millions in public funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program administered by DHS. Defendants used a variety of business entities and schemes to defraud the taxpayers.

“The funds that were illegally obtained in this case were intended to help the poorest among us. The funds were instead taken by a group of influential people for their own benefit, and the scheme is massive. It ends today,” said White.

Davis and Smith are accused of fraudulently manufacturing documents to enrich Brett DiBiase using TANF money. They allegedly created invoices to pay DiBiase TANF funds for teaching classes about drug abuse, but DiBiase was in a luxury rehabilitation facility for his own drug use in California at the time and did not perform the services. Davis and Smith created documents and arranged payment knowing DiBiase was not performing the work he was hired to perform.

Nancy New, the founder of New Summit School, and her son, Zach New, are accused of using the News’ non-profit, MCEC, to pay for DiBiase’s drug treatment using TANF funds. At Davis’ direction, MCEC used TANF money received from DHS to pay for DiBiase’s opioid treatment at the Rise in Malibu facility. The documentation submitted by the News claimed this was to pay DiBiase for conducting training classes that never, in fact, took place. The News are also accused of transferring millions in TANF funds to their private businesses.

Finally, Davis and the News are accused of creating a fraud scheme to take TANF funds to pay for personal investments in medical device companies (Prevacus, Inc., and PreSolMD, LLC) in Florida.

All accused were indicted by a grand jury assembled by Jody Owens, District Attorney of Hinds County. District Attorney Owens and assistant district attorneys will prosecute the case.

“The Hinds County District Attorney’s Office looks forward to working with the State Auditor Shad White and his dedicated team to end public corruption in Mississippi,” said Owens. “The misuse of government funds designed for families in need will not be tolerated by our office and those who break the law will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.”

The total amount of money lost to these schemes has not yet been determined, but the loss already exceeds any embezzlement scheme in the records of the Auditor’s office. Records are kept for all cases from the last twenty years.

If convicted on all counts, the accused face hundreds of years in prison. Persons arrested by the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

MDHS released a statement about the arrests.

MDHS self-reported the information that initiated this investigation to former Governor Phil Bryant’s office in June 2019.  That report ultimately led to today’s arrests.  MDHS would like to thank the Office of the State Auditor investigators for their diligent work in seeing this investigation through. We look forward to this moving through the justice system to a final disposition. 

The Mississippi Department of Human Services

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories