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.


We want to hear from you!

Central to our mission at Mississippi Today is inspiring civic engagement. We think critically about how we can foster healthy dialogue between people who think differently about government and politics. We believe that conversation — raw, earnest talking and listening to better understand each other — is vital to the future of Mississippi. We encourage you to engage with us and each other on our social media accounts, email our reporters directly or leave a comment for our editor by clicking the button below.


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

Anna Wolfe, a native of Tacoma, Wa., is an investigative reporter writing about poverty and economic justice. Before joining the staff at Mississippi Today in September of 2018, Anna worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide daily newspaper. She also worked as an investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity and Jackson Free Press, the capital city’s alternative newsweekly. Anna has received national recognition for her work, including the 2021 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the 2021 Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the 2020 Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award and the February 2020 Sidney Award for reporting on Mississippi’s debtors prisons. She received the National Press Foundation’s 2020 Poverty and Inequality Award. She also received first place in the regional Green Eyeshade Awards in 2021 for Public Service in Online Journalism and 2020 for Business Reporting, and the local Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism in 2019 and 2018 for reporting on unfair medical billing practices and hunger in the Mississippi Delta.