Zach New, left, and his mother Nancy New exit the Cochran federal courthouse on March 18, 2021, in Jackson. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Trials for Nancy New and her son Zach New for their alleged roles in the state’s sprawling welfare embezzlement scheme have been postponed to early 2022, more than two years after the first indictment was filed.

Nancy and Zach New were scheduled to appear at jury trials for both state and federal charges against them in early November. But all their trials have been postponed to early 2022.

At the state level, the News are accused of embezzling $2 million in TANF dollars, also known as cash assistance, through their nonprofit called Mississippi Community Education Center to their for-profit company, New Learning Resources. Documents were allegedly falsified to hide this accused theft.

They face state charges of two counts of conspiracy to embezzle, seven counts of embezzlement, two counts of making fraudulent statements, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and mail fraud. If convicted of all state charges, the News could each face up to 170 years in prison and $220,000 in fines. 

The accountant for the Mississippi Community Education Center recently pleaded guilty to embezzlement for her role in this scheme and has agreed to work with prosecutors. 

At the federal level, the News are accused of filing fraudulent claims with the Mississippi Department of Education to the tune of $4 million for special education scholarships and reimbursements on behalf of students who no longer or had never attended their schools, teachers who no longer worked at their schools, or claiming that teachers had higher certifications than they did. 

The News face federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money transactions with unlawfully acquired funds, and nine counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted of all federal charges, the News could each face up to 218 years in prison and $5 million in fines.

The News requested a continuance of the state trial in early September, following the court’s rescheduling of the trial from October 4 to November 8 as a result of the spike in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant. Court filings show the News requested this continuance because of the close proximity of the new date for the federal trial (which had been scheduled to occur on November 10) and asked that the court maintain the previously established order of trials: federal first, state second. 

The state court rescheduled the trial for Feb. 7, 2022, at the Hinds County Courthouse.

Independently, the federal trial has also been rescheduled at the request of federal prosecutors, a move that was not opposed by the News. Prosecutors said they needed additional time to prepare or negotiate a plea. The federal trial has now been rescheduled to Jan. 3, 2022.

Nancy and Zach New have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

John Davis, the former director of the Department of Human Services (the state agency that administers TANF), was also indicted in this scheme. His trial was scheduled to take place on Nov. 1, 2021, but did not occur. Davis had also requested for his trial to be postponed from the Nov. 1 date at the end of September, saying they needed more time to prepare — a motion that was not opposed by the state.

No other additional information has been filed with the courts, and attorneys for Davis could not be reached on Tuesday.

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Julia James is Mississippi Today's poverty and breaking news reporter. A native of Mandeville, Louisiana, James recently completed an investigative reporting internship with Mississippi Today. In that role, she closely covered the sprawling welfare scandal and public education. She will continue that work, as well as working closely with Mississippi Today’s breaking news team. James is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied journalism and public policy and was in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has been published in The New York Times, Mississippi Today, and Clarion Ledger.