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Christian Speaker and Sons Asked to Repay Millions from Mississippi Welfare Fraud Scheme

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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.

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, in what The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson called “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.

Now, the DiBiases have been ordered to return the welfare money by this week or face civil charges. Favre also was ordered to return $828,000. 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. He 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 alleged “welfare queens,” and instead spent funds on programs designed to help people in one of the poorest states in the U.S. achieve “self-sufficiency.”

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In October, 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, Miss., 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 to $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.

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.