Mississippi football legend Marcus Dupree has denied wrongdoing allegations in the welfare fraud case

Marcus Dupree, who rose to fame in Mississippi and beyond after a short but impressive career in football that became the subject of an ESPN documentary, is speaking publicly about his alleged role in a sprawling welfare fraud case that also included the Hall of Fame NFL entangled. quarterback. British. Favre and dozens of others.

A lawsuit brought by the Mississippi Department of Human Services in May alleges that Dupree illegally paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal welfare money intended for the state’s neediest families. Dupree denied wrongdoing in an interview with ESPN on Wednesday.

“I don’t appreciate being immersed in something like I took the money,” said Dupre. “I’ve worked hard on my reputation for doing the right thing and being the right person and I don’t like what’s going on.”

Dopre, 58, grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where his impressive high school performance made him a return to football in the country. Dobre rose to prominence in his freshman season at the University of Oklahoma in 1982, ultimately hampered by injuries. A look at his football journey was featured in the 2010 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, The Best of What Wasn’t.

During his post-playing days, Dupree maintained local celebrity status in his home state, making frequent appearances at public events or events held by his company.

But his name did not appear in the national media with any hesitation until the results of a state audit in Mississippi became public, and the state subsequently filed a lawsuit in May against Dupre, his foundation, and dozens of other defendants.

According to the civil lawsuit, Dupre was paid $371,000 in Temporary Assistance Funds for Needy Families (TANF) from August 2017 to September 2019.

A Mississippi Department of Human Services initiative called Families First in Mississippi, run by two nonprofits, illegally transferred federal welfare funds to Dupree in exchange for his work as a “celebrity supporter” and “motivational speaker,” according to the lawsuit.

A Mississippi Today investigation was the first to reveal that nonprofits that paid Dupree and others either misspent or stole at least $77 million in welfare money in what is considered the worst public corruption case in state history .

Dupree told ESPN he was “shocked” to learn that Nancy New, president of a nonprofit Mississippi Community Education Center, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of bribery, fraud and racketeering. Dupree said he did not know that the money Neo used to pay him came from embezzled welfare funds.

According to a 2019 government review, Dupree was paid in part for “horse-assisted learning,” which Mississippi State Auditor Chad White told ESPN about “teaching people how to ride.”

White said his office found “limited evidence” that Dupree or anyone else provided these types of services to those in need.

But Dupree insists he mentored the teenagers on his 15-acre horse ranch in Flora, Mississippi.

“I led the kids through the horses by taking charge, cleaning the stalls, and if you’re good at it, I’ll let you ride. Most parents wanted to be around me. I’m excited about what we did and for the state to talk about ‘Oh, none of this happened, yes it did,’” Dupree said.

Dupre said he couldn’t say how many times he mentored teenagers on his horse farm, but he said that during the roughly two years he was paid by the state, he also did 20 to 30 times as a liaison with families. work. first, travel to Mississippi to speak In prisons, schools, radio commercials are recorded.

“I’ve been all over the state,” Dupree said. I signed a contract and did my job.”

“I ran into whatever Brett Favre and the governor did. I didn’t even know about it, nothing. I was shocked when I heard this. I can’t wait to go to court. I don’t know what Brett did. I can only speak for Marcus.”

Marcus Dupre on fraud allegations

Dupre provided ESPN with several photos of what appeared to be teenage boys he says he mentored at his stables in Flora, as well as photos of various public appearances.

“If Mr. Dupree is willing to argue that the payments were reasonably justified for the number of speeches made and can show evidence of the speeches, he will be able to make that argument in court,” White said.

On April 13, 2018, the Dupree Foundation purchased the horse farm and residence in Flora where Dupree currently lives for $855,000. The five-bedroom, 4,100-square-foot home is worth just over $1 million, according to real estate website Zillow.

According to an audit by White’s office, $171,000 of TANF funds were used as a down payment on Dupree’s home and surrounding properties.

White told ESPN that such purchases “would be denied because of the ban on buying real estate with TANF funds.” He also noted the “unreasonableness” of using federal welfare funds, meant for job training and assistance to families in need, to help buy a five-bedroom house and horse farm for a state-contracted employee.

The nonprofit that transferred the money to Dupree went so far as to “guarantee the residence through the bank on a six-year lease from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2024,” according to the state audit. The audit reports that monthly rental payments for the property totaled $9,500.

Dupree said he has no intention of repaying the state as White’s office demanded. “I have a lawyer and I’m just waiting to see how things turn out,” Dupree said.

In October 2021, Dupree’s attorney, J. Matthew Eichelberger, issued a stern letter to White.

Still Mr. Neither Dupree nor his foundation will make any payments in response to your request. Make no mistake: Mr. Dupree got the money he paid for, and had no reason to believe the money was improperly spent by public officials,” Eichelberger wrote.

So far, six people have been referred in the pending social fraud case. Five of them pleaded guilty.

Brett Favre is not among those facing criminal charges, but he, like Dupree, remains a defendant in the ongoing civil lawsuit brought by the state of Mississippi in May. Text messages show he lobbied former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant for $5 million in funds to help build a new volleyball center at his alma mater, University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played the sport. Favre denied wrongdoing.

Dupre said the negative press Favre has been involved with in recent months has damaged his reputation.

“I ran into whatever Brett Favre and the governor did. I didn’t even know about it, nothing. I was shocked when I heard this. I can’t wait to go to court. I don’t know what Brett did. I can only speak for Marcus.”

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