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

“I have a passion for amplifying the voices of those in our state that need the most help.”

Anna Wolfe, investigative reporter

The state accepted the guilty pleas of Nancy and Zach New in Mississippi’s sprawling welfare scandal on Tuesday — a move that makes their agreement to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against their co-defendants official.

The News had submitted their guilty pleas for the state charges last week. 

Nancy New, a 69-year-old former educator, is pleading guilty to four counts of bribing a public official, two counts of fraud against the government, six counts of wire fraud and one count of racketeering. Her deal comes with a total maximum sentence of 100 years, but prosecutors have recommended that the state sentence her to equal or lesser time than her federal sentence, once federal sentencing has occurred. 

In other words, state prosecutors recommend Nancy New serve her entire sentence in federal prison — allowing her to avoid serving time in the more barbaric state prisons — and serve no additional time for the state charges above what she serves in the federal case. She pleaded guilty in the federal case earlier last week to one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years.

READ MORE: Nancy and Zach New plead guilty to bribery and fraud in state welfare case

Zach New, the 39-year-old vice president of his mother’s nonprofit, pleaded guilty to the same charges, minus racketeering and one less count of wire fraud. State prosecutors have offered him the same deal to serve only the number of years he receives in the separate federal case. He pleaded guilty in the federal case to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which comes with a maximum sentence of five years. 

Prosecutors split off Zach’s charge in a separate bill of information, a document that is filed when a defendant agrees to plead guilty without the grand jury handing down an indictment, to ensure that Zach would be able to serve his time in federal prisons.

Both Nancy and Zach New have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against their co-defendants. Both state and federal criminal investigations are ongoing and could result in charges against additional people, sources close to the probes say.

READ MORE: Phil Bryant had his sights on a payout as welfare funds flowed to Brett Favre


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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.

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.