Mississippi football legend Marcus Dupree denies allegations of wrongdoing in welfare fraud case

Marcus Dupree, who found fame in Mississippi and beyond after a brief but impressive football career that became the subject of an ESPN documentary, speaks about his alleged role in a sprawling welfare fraud case that also involved Hall of Famer NFL quarterback Brett involved Favre and dozens of others.

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

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

Dupree, 58, grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where his excellence as a high school running back made him the most desirable football recruit in the country. Dupree was a standout in his freshman season at the University of Oklahoma in 1982, but his career was ultimately hampered by injuries. His football journey was featured in a 2010 ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, The Best That Never Was.

During his post-gaming days, Dupree maintained local celebrity status in his home state, frequently appearing at public functions or events hosted by his foundation.

But his name didn’t appear often in the national media until the results of a Mississippi state audit were released and the state filed a lawsuit against Dupree, his foundation and dozens of other defendants in May.

According to the lawsuit, Dupree received $371,000 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds from August 2017 to September 2019.

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

An investigation by Mississippi Today was the first to reveal that the nonprofits that paid Dupree and others misappropriated or stole at least $77 million in welfare funds in what is believed to be the worst public corruption case in state history.

Dupree told ESPN he was “shocked” to learn that Nancy New, the director of one of the nonprofits, the Mississippi Community Education Center, had pleaded guilty to 13 counts of bribery, fraud and racketeering. Dupree said he didn’t know the money New paid him with came from embezzled social funds.

According to a 2019 state exam, Dupree was paid in part for “equine-assisted learning,” which Mississippi State Examiner Shad White told ESPN meant “teaching people how to ride.”

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

But Dupree insists he has been mentoring teenagers on his 15-acre horse farm in Flora, Mississippi.

“I put the kids through the horses, taking responsibilities, cleaning the stalls, and if you were good at it, I’d let you ride. Most parents just wanted them to be around me. I’m passionate about what we did and for the state to be talking about, ‘Oh, none of that happened,’ yes it did,” Dupree said.

Dupree said he couldn’t quantify how often he mentored teenagers on his horse farm, but he says he also made 20 to 30 appearances in the roughly two years he was paid by the state when he worked as a liaison for Families First worked and traveled Mississippi speaking in jails and schools and recording radio commercials.

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

“I get lumped in with everything that Brett Favre and the governor have been up to. I didn’t even know about it, nothing. I was shocked when I heard it. I can’t wait until we go to court. I put it on I don’t know what Brett did. I can only speak for Marcus.”

Marcus Dupree on fraud allegations

Dupree provided ESPN with several photos of teenage boys he allegedly mentored at his stables in Flora, as well as photos from numerous public appearances.

“If Mr. Dupree wishes to argue that the amounts paid to him were reasonably justified for the number of speeches made, and can provide evidence of the speeches, he can make that argument in court,” White said.

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

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

White told ESPN that such purchases “would be impermissible due to the ban on buying real estate with TANF funds.” He also noted the “irrationality” of using federal welfare funds, which are earmarked for job training and support for families in need, to help buy a five-bedroom home and horse farm for a government employee.

The nonprofit that channeled the money to Dupree went so far as to “guarantee the residence across the board with a six-year lease from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2024,” according to the state audit office. Monthly rent payments for the property totaled $9,500, the audit said.

Dupree said he has no intention of repaying the state, as White’s office has requested. “I have an attorney and I’m just waiting to see how things pan out,” Dupree said.

In October 2021, Dupree’s attorney, J. Matthew Eichelberger, sent White a strongly worded letter.

“Neither Mr. Dupree nor his foundation will make any payment at your request. Make no mistake: Mr. Dupree earned the money he was paid and he has never had reason to believe the money was improperly spent,” Eichelberger wrote.

To date, six people have been charged in the pending welfare fraud case. Five have pleaded guilty.

Brett Favre is not among the defendants, but like Dupree, he remains a defendant in the ongoing civil lawsuit filed by the state of Mississippi in May. Text messages show that he pressured Phil Bryant, a former Mississippi governor, for $5 million in funding to help build a new volleyball center at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter practiced the sport. Favre denies wrongdoing.

Dupree said the negative press about Favre in recent months has damaged his own reputation.

“I get lumped in with everything that Brett Favre and the governor have been up to. I didn’t even know about it, nothing. I was shocked when I heard it. I can’t wait until we go to court. I put it on I don’t know what Brett did. I can only speak for Marcus.”

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34695667/mississippi-football-legend-marcus-dupree-denies-allegations-wrongdoing-welfare-fraud-case Mississippi football legend Marcus Dupree denies allegations of wrongdoing in welfare fraud case

Emma Bowman

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button