Former wrestler charged with theft of millions in funds for needy families in Mississippi

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, April 20, 2023

A federal indictment was unsealed Thursday in Mississippi charging a former professional wrestler with misappropriating millions of dollars in federal safety-net funds intended for needy families and low-income individuals.

According to court documents, Theodore “Ted” Marvin DiBiase Jr., age 40, of Madison, is alleged to have fraudulently obtained federal funds that were then used for his own personal use and benefit. Charged along with DiBiase were co-conspirators John Davis, Christ Webb, Nancy New and others. The funds came in part from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program.

Brookhaven native Davis was the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services. As part of the alleged scheme, after federal funds were issued to MDHS, Davis directed MDHS to sub-grant the funds to two nonprofit organizations, Family Resource Center of North Mississippi Inc. (FRC) and Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC), which were operated by Webb and New, respectively. Davis then allegedly directed Webb and New to award sham contracts to various individuals and entities purportedly for the delivery of social services, including at least five contracts that were awarded to DiBiase’s companies, Priceless Ventures LLC and Familiae Orientem LLC.

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The indictment alleges that under these sham contracts, DiBiase and his companies were awarded millions of dollars for social services that were not provided and that DiBiase did not intend to provide. He allegedly used the funds to buy a vehicle and a boat, and for the down payment on the purchase of a home, among other expenditures.

DiBiase is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, and four counts of money laundering. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and for each count of money laundering.

Following the indictment, Mississippi State Auditor Shad White issued the following statement: “Prosecutors decide whom to charge with a crime, and we’re grateful to see them continuing to advance this case. We will continue to support their efforts with the evidence that our investigators and federal investigators have uncovered.”