Marcus Dupree denies wrongdoing in welfare scandal


(NewsNation) — Former standout Mississippi high school running back Marcus Dupree, who was widely recruited in the early 1980s and went to Oklahoma University, is denying accusations that he was involved in a scheme to divert state welfare funds to personally enrich people and organizations.

Dupree was named in a lawsuit alleging he was paid $371,000 from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds in exchange for his work as a “celebrity endorser” and “motivational speaker” for the main two nonprofits involved in the scandal.

The state alleges that Dupree was paid for “equine assisted learning,” which the auditor’s office said means “teaching people how to ride horses,” according to ESPN. But the state auditor, Shad White, said his office found “limited evidence” that Dupree ever provided any of those services.

Speaking on television for the first time since the lawsuit was filed in May, Dupree said Wednesday on “CUOMO” that he is innocent and the state “didn’t do their research” because he has proof he completed the work he agreed to in contracts.

“I’ve got pictures, I’ve got video, I’ve got commercials, radio spots, you can’t miss me,” Dupree said. “For them to say I didn’t do the work is preposterous.”

Dupree is also accused of using welfare funds for a down payment on a horse farm and residence worth $855,000. The five-bedroom, 4,100-square-foot home is valued at just over $1 million, according to Zillow.

Matthew Eichelberger, Dupree’s attorney, said the nonprofit groups that approached Dupree about the horse farm were the true bad actors who misled and took advantage of Dupree. The nonprofit offered the bank a guarantee to prepay a six-year lease on the house, according to the state auditor.

“Marcus is in this situation because he has an enormous heart,” Eichelberger said. “Marcus did every single last thing that he was asked to do for this money.”

Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre is accused in the lawsuit of seeking funds to build a volleyball center at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi. Text messages between Favre and former Gov. Phil Bryant used in court filings show the two communicated about ways to funnel at least $5 million in state welfare funds for the new volleyball center.

Asked if he has any connection to Favre, Dupree said the last time he saw him was “in 1992 in Atlanta on a football field.”

“I have no idea what he’s got going on,” Dupree said.

The state has demanded Dupree pay back the money he was given, which he said he has no intention of doing.

“He earned every bit of it,” Eichelberger said. “(We told the state) we will help in any way we can, and we have done that.”

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