Mar. 16—JACKSON — Christi Webb, the former director of the Tupelo-based Family Resource Center, has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of stealing government funds as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, according to court documents.
The documents show that Webb appeared before federal Magistrate Judge Keith Ball in Jackson on Thursday, where she agreed to plead guilty to the charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
It’s unclear if Webb will be required to cooperate with federal investigators and testify against other potential defendants. Court documents show that a supplemental plea agreement outlining Webb’s additional requirements is sealed.
Webbs’ plea is the latest development from a sprawling state and federal investigation into how millions of federal welfare dollars were funneled from the state’s welfare agency through nonprofits to various projects when it was meant to help the state’s poorest residents.
When former Mississippi Department of Human Services Director John Davis pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in September, federal prosecutors appeared to identify Webb as one of his co-conspirators in the welfare scheme.
Casey Lott, Webbs’ previous attorney and current FRC board member, maintained last year that while she led the nonprofit, Webb was the only person who pushed back on Davis’ requests to funnel money to projects not authorized under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
But federal prosecutors continued to make references to the nonprofit in a separate October civil court filing last year saying they were conducting a criminal investigation into how former professional wrestler Theodore “Teddy” DiBiase Jr. used welfare dollars that were funneled to him through the FRC.
Lott told the Daily Journal on Thursday that although he did initially provide legal counsel to Webb during the early stages of the federal investigation, he does not represent Webb anymore.
Webb this week resigned as director of the nonprofit, according to Lott.
Judge Keith Ball recently appointed two federal public defenders to represent Webb because she did not have the financial means to retain her own counsel. The public defenders did not respond to a request for comment.
State Auditor Shad White in 2020 revealed that he provided information to state prosecutors that led to the indictment of six officials connected to a scheme to mismanage funds from the TANF program. Nearly all of those six defendants have pleaded guilty.
“Since my office first uncovered the welfare fraud scandal in 2020, we have been committed to assisting the prosecutors, who make the decisions about whom to charge with a crime,” White said in a statement Thursday. “They are clearly taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers today.”
The state welfare agency through a civil lawsuit is also attempting to recoup welfare funds the FRC allegedly misspent. The nonprofit has said it committed no wrongdoing.
Webb is expected to appear in federal court before U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson on June 16 for sentencing. She agreed to an unsecured bond of $10,000.