In early 2020, after years of questions and complaints from struggling families, advocates and reporters regarding the state’s administration of a federal program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the public found out where at least some of the money went.

Agents from the state auditor’s office arrested six people on Feb. 5, 2020, alleging they conspired to steal more than $4 million in federal block grant funds intended to help Mississippians escape poverty. One has pleaded guilty, another tried to plead guilty, but a judge rejected the deal, and four remain innocent until proven guilty. Trials are set for coming months, but additional delays are likely.

While the auditor’s office says its still investigating the case with the FBI, no one else who received roughly $94 million in questionably spent welfare funds has been charged with a crime. It’s possible that had they no knowledge of the overarching scheme or the source of the funds, they may not be accused of wrongdoing, officials have explained to Mississippi Today.

The subsequent revelations about how Mississippi runs its public assistance programs span further and wider than the ongoing criminal case. Here’s what went down:

This timeline will be updated as we learn more.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Take our 2023 reader survey

Anna Wolfe is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who covers inequity and corruption in government safety net programs, nonprofit service providers and institutions affecting the marginalized. She began reporting for Mississippi Today in 2018, after she approached the editor with the idea of starting a poverty beat, the first of its kind in the state. Wolfe has received national recognition for her years-long coverage of Mississippi’s welfare program, in which she exposed new details about how officials funneled tens of millions of federal public assistance funds away from needy families and instead to their friends, families and the pet projects of famous athletes. Since joining Mississippi Today, she has received several national honors including the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, the Livingston Award, two Goldsmith Prizes for Investigative Reporting, the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the Sacred Cat Award, the Nellie Bly Award, the John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, the Sidney Award, the National Press Foundation’s Poverty and Inequality Award and others. Previously, Wolfe worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide newspaper, where she covered city hall, health care, and wrote stories about hunger and medical billing, earning the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism two years in a row. Born and raised on the Puget Sound in Washington State, Wolfe moved to Mississippi in 2012 to attend Mississippi State University, where she currently serves on the Digital Journalism Advisory Board. She has lived in Jackson, Mississippi since graduating in 2014.