New Albany, MS – News and Commentary:
Last week’s story about the state auditor arresting six people for embezzling millions intended for the poorest people in the state was shocking for most Mississippians. The account of the case posted on this website drew nearly twice as many readers as any other single story published here in five years.
The flamboyant depravity of those who stole the millions of dollars from the “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” (TANF) program had normally restrained people calling for public hangings. It was stealing a crust of bread from a hungry child, but on an obscenely wicked scale.
More sordid “dots” to connect in MSHS embezzlement scandal
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong. Mississippians learned two days ago that over two-million dollars of the money meant for the poorest of the poor had gone to a notorious former professional wrestler, who had got himself up as a minister of the gospel of Christ.
The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger reported late Thursday night, Feb. 13, that $2,126,179 of TANF money had been paid over a two-year period to a “Christian non-profit organization” headed by a man called Ted DiBiase.
Dibase is head of the “Heart of David Ministries” to which the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) disbursed the TANF money starting in May 2017.
As with most of the money State Auditor Shad White says was embezzled, there has thus far been little accounting for what the embezzlers did with it. An official MDHS document says,“Heart of David Ministries” would use the money to, “establish a network of partnerships, services and resources throughout Mississippi communities for faith-based and self activities.”
Ted DiBiase: A ring star is born for the peoples’ pleasure
Even those who have never paid any attention to the phony “sport” known as professional wrestling have probably heard of a modern-day incarnation of P.T. Barnum named Vince McMahon. McMahon is the smart showman/promoter who amassed a $2-billion personal fortune by building World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc, the WWE.
The aforementioned Ted DiBiase is essentially a creation of Vince McMahon.
Born 66 years ago either in Omaha, Nebraska or Miami, Florida, his original name was Theodore Marvin. His birth mother was a professional wrestler named Gladys Helen Nevins. Her ring name was Helen Hild. She married a professional wrestler named “Iron” Mike DiBiase, who adopted Theodore and gave him a new last name.
“Iron” Mike died in the wrestling ring when Ted DiBiase was age 15. Helen developed problems with depression and alcohol, so Ted was raised by his grandparents in Arizona. He attended West Texas State University near Amarillo on a football scholarship, but dropped out.
He took up wrestling and was billed as the son of “Iron” Mike DiBiase.
Five years later, Vince McMahon took up the management of Ted DiBiase’s wrestling career. McMahon recognized that Ted DiBiase had some natural athletic skills, a bit of acting ability, and a willingness to be molded.
Vince McMahon developed DiBiase as “one of the most despicable villains of his time.”
He played the villain to Hulk Hogan’s hero.
McMahon created the myth that DiBiase was wealthy, made sure he was seen riding in limousines from time to time and furnished him with stacks of hundred-dollar bills with instructions to flash the money around Manhattan. McMahon would have DiBiase go into convenience stores, buy a package of chewing gum and pay for it with a hundred-dollar bill, telling the clerk to “keep the change.”
McMahon told DiBiase to go into New York bars and buy a round for everyone in the house (in the cheap Irish bars, of course; “not those fifteen-dollar-a-shot joints on the Upper East Side, for Chrisake!”). Naturally, DiBiase had to account to McMahon’s people for his “flash money.”
McMahon saw to it that DiBiase was well-trained, and he was good at the craft of putting on a show in the ring
During his professional wrestling career, Ted DiBiase was billed as the “Million Dollar Man.” He was known for his boisterous declaration that “Everybody has a price” and vignettes in which he bribed people and abused associates, while ostentatiously flashing those hundred-dollar bills. Ted DiBiase’s active career as a professional wrestler ended after he was injured around 1999.
An “evangelist” emerges from the wrestling ring
DiBiase then took up a career as an evangelist. He says he was ordained as a Christian minister in February 2000, although by whom or by what church he was ordained is obscure.
Two-million dollars from welfare funds was a pretty good haul for DiBiase’s collection plate. What benefit the Work of the Lord or the poor people of Mississippi may have received remains to be revealed.
Ted DiBiase has not been indicted. He may or may not have committed a crime. Time and a court of law may some day provide us with that information.
He is the father of Brett DiBiase, one of six people arrested Wednesday, Feb. 5, by Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, in what White called “the largest public embezzlement case in state history.”
Another episode in a sordid tale, which raises more questions than it answers.
Thus far the only people charged in this case are current and former state employees or private individuals who contracted with MDHS.
Where were the officials elected to oversee our state?
What of the elected state officials, including the current and former governors, who hired these folks? They were elected by the voters to look after things. Where were they when this was going on and why did they let it happen?
Current Governor Tate Reeves admittedly received campaign donations from two of the people arrested last week. What about Governor Bryant and members of the legislature? Will we learn whether their campaigns got money from the folks who’ve been indicted?
Mississippians hope to learn someday how two governors and key leaders in the state legislature will account for letting this happen. The same folks need to stand accountable for problems in other state operations, particularly in public education and the Department of Corrections.
Don’t hold your breath until they stand and deliver.
Here’s the link to the story about the MDHS scandal published earlier this week on NEMISS.NEWS: https://www.nemiss.news/connecting-dots-mdhs-embezzlement/
The uninformative Heart of David Ministries website: http://www.heartofdavidministry.com/MS Department of Human Services, Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)