/Phil Bryant turned to welfare officials to rescue troubled nephew

Phil Bryant turned to welfare officials to rescue troubled nephew

According to Mississippi Today records, federal investigators were told that New paid McRae’s rehab costs. McRae was struggling in school and needed an early help. His family eventually connected with Nancy New, a private school in Jackson called New Summit School. New contributed to Phil Bryant’s campaign and worked closely alongside his wife Deborah, McRae’s grandmother. Bryant had previously spoken highly of New’s private school district. Bryant said that it was an example for what public schools should look. Mississippi’s current governor Tate Reeves used Jackson School as a location for his campaign ad. This aired in 2019, while New was being investigated by the state for fraud and theft in connection to large contracts that her nonprofit received from Bryant’s welfare department. In what officials call the largest state embezzlement case in state history, agents from the state auditor’s offices arrested New, her son Zach New, and Bryant’s ex-welfare director John Davis. The governor is still being tried, although he was involved in the case. Each of the defendants pleaded not guilty. New was well-known at the time in political circles. Her school was praised by prominent state figures for its ability to educate children with intellectual disabilities as well as for taking in students with behavioral issues. According to court documents, McRae was diagnosed with ADD, anxiety, and a visual processing disorder called Irlen Syndrome. His family felt blessed that he got a place at the school. Darin Cooper, McRae’s stepfather, said that McRae was granted admission because “the governor pulled strings to get it in there.” Cooper claimed that the McRae family received a discount tuition rate at New Summit because of Noah McRae’s relationship with the governor. Although it didn’t go as planned, McRae was able to secure a safety net. Cooper stated that McRae was expelled from the school and then the school hired him to be a groundskeeper. But things were not as they appeared at the school. Federal prosecutors claim that the News made fraudulent claims for millions of dollars in public school funds for children with mental health conditions and who need hospitalization for four years. Nancy and Zach New pleaded not guilty in a separate federal case. They still await trial. Cooper stated that McRae is believed to be one of the students named by the News in order to receive the money. Cooper stated that there was a lot of hope at the school. It was a huge moment for his family when he was admitted to that school. They promised to fix everything and turn him around.” McRae did not make it past the 10th grade. McRae, 18, was arrested in Madison in April 2017 by police after he and friends broke into multiple vehicles and stole guns and other items. According to the Mississippi Today court file, McRae pleaded guilty to three counts auto burglary in June 2017. McRae accepted to be a sheriff’s trusty which kept him out the penitentiary. After just shy of one year, officials removed him from the program. He was held in prison for five months before being sentenced. He’d been in prison for approximately a year and a half by that point. McRae was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, with four years suspended. This means that he will only have to serve three years. McRae was eligible for parole after completing half of his sentence. About a month later, McRae was released by the Mississippi Department of Corrections. New’s nonprofit began making small, irregular payments to the 19-year old just a few weeks after he was released from prison, according to Mississippi Today records. According to the ledger, he was paid through a welfare-funded program called Families First for Mississippi. New claimed that his nonprofit provided reentry services for people who had been released from the correctional system. However, New stated to Mississippi Today in 2018 how Families First didn’t provide any direct assistance. It’s unclear what McRae was doing to get the money, but it wasn’t long before text messages revealed that McRae had been having problems with the young man. The welfare officers who were state employees spent hours monitoring him. Eventually, Gov. According to text messages Mississippi Today obtained, Bryant would raise concerns about McRae with his appointed welfare director John Davis. These texts are reprinted as they are without correction. “The boy must get help immediately or he will fall seriously,” Bryant said to Davis. Bryant thanked Davis for his help in a text message on April 1, 2019. McRae was able to rely on the combined resources of New’s nonprofit and the welfare department of the state. It is not clear how much that assistance went. Bryant stated that he had told John, “This is a tragedy, and we’re concerned about his health,” and John would have replied, “Let me help him,”” Bryant explained to Mississippi Today in a recent interview. Bryant was asked about McRae’s connection with the welfare agency. The texts show that Bryant was asking Davis about how to get his great nephew into treatment. However, a person with close connections to the welfare scandal claims McRae received more than a referral. A transcript of a 2021 interview with federal agents shows that the person said McRae was paid by New. In a recent interview, Bryant stated to Mississippi Today that he didn’t recall New paying for McRae’s rehab. However, he said that it was an appropriate use of her resources. Although I don’t have all the details, an agency that works with Department of Human Services has guidelines. Bryant said that he doesn’t recall New paying for his great-nephew’s rehab. He added, “We think we could pay for the rehabilitation of this very fragile, poor child.” Bryant stated that they believe it’s the right thing. According to the transcript, Bryant said that he wouldn’t have said “Whoa, wait, let me read the code books” and then moved on to other topics. According to the interviewee, they don’t know the name of the facility McRae was treated at but said that McRae was there around the time New and Davis sent professional wrestler Brett DiBiase on taxpayer’s dime. This all began in February 2019. DiBiase was convicted of defrauding state. He collected money while in rehab but didn’t complete it – December 2020. New was determined to keep Bryant, and Davis happy. The Mississippi Department of Human Services, under the leadership of the two men, had begun funneling tens of million from the federal welfare program Temporary Assistance For Needy Families to New’s non-profit through a no bid contract. Her nonprofit, Mississippi Community Education Center was to manage a state-sanctioned program called Families First for Mississippi. Gov. Bryant often referred to Bryant’s plan to help low-income people get off welfare. Bryant has never been accused of misconduct, and has denied any wrongdoing. The welfare scandal was largely fueled by drug rehab payments. According to reports, Families First paid $160,000 for Brett DiBiase’s four-month stay at Rise in Malibu. The Rise bills itself as a luxury rehab facility with private en suite rooms, magnificent ocean views, world class treatment, and luxurious accommodations. Prosecutors claim the payments were made from welfare funds. Brett DiBiase, the son of Ted DiBiase Sr. (who WWE fans call “The Million Dollar Man”) also received welfare funding as his Christian minister role. Brett DiBiase, one of six people who were arrested in the welfare fraud case was flipped to help the prosecution. Scott Gilbert, Jackson attorney, represented McRae’s 2017 car burglary case. He is currently representing Ted “Teddy” DiBiase Jr. in the case. This was another character in the scandal, receiving more than $3M in federal funding to give motivational presentations to state workers. Gilbert stated that his office doesn’t comment on client representation. Prosecutors allege that New, the welfare director, conspired to use taxpayer money to pay for Brett DiBiase’s drug treatment in Malibu. States can use Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding for treatment for substance abuse for qualified residents who are in need. This is a progressive policy that addresses the real needs of families. Families First did not advertise the possibility of drug treatment for families in its multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns, brochures, and thousands of dollars of radio spots. Bryant had previously signed and publicly praised a new law that required applicants and recipients for Temporary Assistance For Needy Families to undergo drug screenings and tests. If they fail, the program will be terminated. Even for those who do not abuse drugs, the policy was a major barrier to eligibility. Applicants must arrange transportation to the clinic. Bryant is now a spokesperson for Mercy House Adult & Teen Challenge in the local area. This program is part of a national Christian program which has been under scrutiny for imposing harsh discipline on residents and forcing them into unpaid labor. According to Mississippi Today ledgers, Noah McRae was paid small, irregular payments of $1,500 between January and February 2019. Mississippi Today has learned that officials have indicated to Mississippi Today that the ledgers may contain errors and omissions due to the fact that nonprofit officials were transferring funds between multiple bank accounts. It was not uncommon for employees of the Families First program to pretend they were working for the Mississippi Department of Human Services, but instead receive their paychecks from the nonprofit. The expenses of the nonprofit were hidden from public view. According to the ledger McRae stopped receiving funds from Families First by March but Davis and Lynne Myers continued to discuss McRae like he was an employee of an agency. Myers emailed Davis early March asking for guidance on how to handle Noah. “He has not been to work since Wednesday…. He hasn’t shown up at all during this week, and I can’t get him on my cell.” What position McRae might have held in the welfare or nonprofit department, or what qualifications he may have had for the job. According to current MDHS leadership, there is no record McRae was employed at the agency. Davis sent McRae numerous text messages in the weeks following Myers’ contact, asking McRae to call him or meet with him. It is not clear why McRae’s director had direct access to McRae’s clients or employees of Families First. This kind of exchange is rare. Bryant replied, “because he’s my great-nephew.” Nancy New then added her voice. New sent Davis and Myers a message in March 2019. “I have an update about Noah McRae,” Myers replied. There were no messages on the group chat. A week later, Gov. Bryant messaged Davis about Bryant’s great-nephew. “Would it be possible to give David a number at Region 8?” Bryant wrote April 1 that he was trying to get Noah in a treatment program. “The boy must get help immediately or he will fall. Thank you for everything. David Van, the director of Region 8, is responsible for the Jackson-metro area’s Community Mental Health Center. The Community Mental Health Centers, a group of quasi-public-private treatment facilities and clinics that accept payment according to what an individual can afford, are a set of treatment facilities and clinics. Mississippi Today was told by Van that the governor would call him often to ask for his help in directing constituents to services. However, Van said that he didn’t recall ever speaking to John Davis or triaging Noah McRae. New and Davis are subject to gag orders that prevent them from talking to the media about their cases. Their lawyers declined to answer questions about this series. Mississippi Today called Myers to ask for more information about McRae’s involvement. Myers did not answer. Although Myers has not been charged, agents from the auditor’s office interviewed her about why she transferred merchandise purchased with taxpayer funds from state property to the nonprofit. This interview was recorded. Myers assumed control of the communications department in fall 2018, right after Paul Nelson became the subject of a lawsuit for not releasing public records promptly. Agency was soundproofing its operations, requiring all communication with reporters to be done through the attorney general’s Office. It also established a media policy that required reporters to submit written questions to the agency, which it often refused to answer. McRae’s involvement by Davis and New is not the only instance of welfare officials supporting a loved one in an addiction situation. According to texts, the MDHS assistant attorney general sought out Davis and New’s assistance for his son. He was at that time visiting Pine Grove, an addiction treatment center in Hattiesburg. Before he died in 2021, the son worked as MDHS’s child support contractor. After Bryant had fired the director, but before Davis made public his retirement announcement, the assistant attorney wrote that he would reach out to Dr. New. “Again, thank you for all your efforts.” Texts show that Davis and New managed a government program that was rife with nepotism. Myers was also employed by the welfare-funded Families First program as a community liaison. He is also former director of administrative operations for the Department of Public Safety. According to the ledger, he earned a minimum of $86,000 from New’s non-profit. According to the ledger, text messages indicate that Davis secured a job at Families First, where Mason Myers was paid approximately $600 per week. Lynne Myers sent Davis a text message in June 2019, just one week before Davis would have to face his first polygraph exam in connection with his department’s audit. Myers was Bryant’s special projects coordinator. LinkedIn describes her as the network account executive at TeleSouth Communications. This was also known as Supertalk radio. In 2018 and 2019, she was MDHS’s director of communications. In exchange for advertising and sometimes soft-ball interviews, state agencies pay hundreds, if not thousands, of taxpayer dollars annually to SuperTalk radio. A 2020 audit report shows that New’s nonprofit funneled almost $330,000 in MDHS funds directly to the station. Davis was in close contact with Supertalk CEO Kim Dillon. The two discussed Logan Dillon’s progress, who worked as a lobbyist at the welfare department. Davis texted the CEO, “Everybody tells us how great Logan is doing.” “I’m so proud” Kim Dillon invited Davis to dinner at Tico’s Steakhouse, Ridgeland, a few months before he abruptly retired. Logan and I spoke last night. Logan asked me if I was interested in having dinner with him. Although I did not go into detail about what we discussed, I let him know. Dillon sent Davis a text in May 2019. McRae was able to take advantage of the Mississippi good ole boy government system. However, it also provided second chances that were not available to most. Prosecutors claim that the News used at least part of the public school funds they allegedly stole from McRae students to pay for their own use. Cooper, McRae’s stepdad, stated that the couple received a lot of federal or state funds and were stealing them. “None of those funds ever went to Noah. These people never provided any help to Noah. They were using his name to collect government funds.” McRae did not get a better result despite being offered a place at New’s private school, a job at Families First and a position on campus. McRae was released from the Welfare Department and Families First in late 2019. He then returned to car burglary and was convicted in Rankin County. McRae pleaded guilty to the charges in February 2021, just a few months after his daughter’s birth. According to MDOC records, McRae was sentenced to five years imprisonment. He is currently in Leake County Correctional Facility.