Fraud apparently runs in the family of Christian speaker Ted DiBiase, a former World Wrestling Federation fighter whose character, The Million Dollar Man, was all about wealth and greed. His golden championship belt was adorned with dollar signs.
In real life, DiBiase claimed he was now “fulfilled by his relationship with Jesus Christ and his family.” But he and his two sons fraudulently collected more than $6 million to deliver speeches and presentations — work they never completed, Mississippi authorities say.
Back in May 2020, a Mississippi state audit found that some $94 million in federal block grants intended to help the state’s poorest residents instead went to dozens of well-connected friends and family members, including DiBiase and his two sons as well as former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.
The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson called it “Mississippi’s largest embezzlement scandal on record.”
“Money meant to help poor Mississippians was instead used to buy expensive cars, sponsor a college baseball tournament, hire family members of a top state official and pay Brett Favre for speeches he never gave,” wrote Clarion-Ledger reporter Luke Ramseth.
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Favre denied the charges against him, tweeting, “I would never accept money for no-show appearances, as the state of Mississippi auditor, @ShadWhite, claims.”
The state, however, has ordered Favre to return $828,000.
It also has ordered the DiBiases to return the welfare money by this week or face civil charges. The DiBiases were also asked to return funds for work they failed to perform:
$722,299 from Ted DiBiase’s Heart of David Ministry, which received more than $2 million from the state
$225,950 from Brett DiBiase, who was paid to deliver drug abuse classes at the time he was in an expensive drug rehab program in Malibu and has also been indicted on charges of stealing $48,000 in welfare funds
$3.903 million from Ted DiBiase Jr., who followed his father into wrestling but since 2017 has worked as a motivational speaker, textbook salesman and insurance broker
MinistryWatch reported in May 2020 that the Mississippi Department of Human Services had halted direct cash assistance to low-income households that been accused of misusing public welfare, and instead spent funds on programs designed to help people in one of the poorest states in the U.S. achieve self-sufficiency.
In October, The Washington Post reported reported that $77 million had been misspent, with $41 million going to questionable expenditures, such as luxury travel and a new volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter played volleyball.
Heart of David Ministry was founded in Madison, Mississippi, in 1999, and has participated in events sponsored by Promise Keepers. Prior to receiving state money, it had annual revenues of $100,000 to $200,000. State funding caused income to rise to $386,086 in 2017 and $942,249 in 2018.
MinistryWatch reached out to the ministry, but did not receive a response.
A bio for Ted DiBiase Sr. says he is a spokesperson for and board member of The Sunshine Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill and handicapped children. It’s not clear if he still represents the foundation.
The title of the inspirational autobiography DiBiase wrote for Multnomah in 1997 now seems eerily revealing: “Every Man Has His Price.”