Former welfare agency leader John Davis faces federal conspiracy, theft charges

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Sep. 22—JACKSON — John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, was charged on Sept. 15 with committing federal conspiracy and theft in connection to how federal welfare dollars were spent at the agency he led for around three years.

Attached to the charges, which were unsealed by U.S. District Judge Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball on Wednesday, is a notice that if Davis pleads guilty to the federal accusations, federal prosecutors intend to seize any assets that Davis obtained during the course of allegedly stealing government funds.

The forfeiture document states there were four co-conspirators who participated in the alleged scheme with Davis. It's not immediately clear who all the unnamed co-conspirators are.

Casey Lott, an attorney representing the Tupelo-based Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, told the Daily Journal on Wednesday that it appears Christi Webb, the director of the FRC has been "vaguely identified" as one of the co-conspirators.

Lott disputed some of the claims attached in the federal complaint, and said it was "absurd" for federal prosecutors to claim Webb was conspiring with Davis. Webb was not identified as a criminal defendant.

"Christi is the only one in this sordid tale who ever told John Davis 'No,'" Lott said. "And she got punished for it."

Lott, on behalf of Webb, has previously said that Davis retaliated against the Tupelo nonprofit for not agreeing to award contracts to retired wrestler Brett DiBiase.

State officials are also trying to civilly recoup around $3.8 million in federal welfare dollars from the FRC that they allege was misspent. The FRC leaders have also denied these allegations.

The indictment outlines a scheme involving Davis and the four co-conspirators "to divert federal funds intended for needy families and low-income individuals for their person use and benefit."

The federal charges come in addition to state charges Davis is facing over sprawling allegations of fraud and embezzlement allegedly conducted by Davis with money from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Co-conspirators 1 and 2 are described as each the director of a non-profit organization.

Co-conspirator 3 is described as a Madison County resident who owned most of two companies involved in the criminal allegations.

A fourth co-conspirator is described only as a Hinds County resident.

Davis allegedly directed each of the non-profit directors to award "sham contracts" and to commit other misuses of federal dollars.