Paul Lacoste, a fitness trainer and one of the retired athletes entangled in the ongoing scandal in Mississippi, has fired him into the state following him.
Lacoste’s recent counterclaim alleges that someone from the state invited him to a meeting in mid-2018 to discuss the proposed contract, and that Gov. Phil Bryant commissioned a fitness agency to hire the Lacoste organization to conduct free fitness boot camps across the city.
By this time, the athlete had already placed professional classes and government officials in the metro area of Jackson, which included then-Lt. Gov. Tate Provost and many other legislators.
The order of Lacoste, the Victoria Sports Foundation, finally received $1.3 million in funds from the federal welfare program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, through a private non-profit called the Mississippi Community Education Center, the audience found in 2020.
“For those funds, Victory Sports and Lacoste conducted strategic camps, none of which were designed to achieve, or to achieve, any legitimate TANF purpose,” the MDHS complaint reads. “… Lacoste and the Victoria Sports Foundation owe MDHS a debt of $1,309,183.”
From the criminal charges brought against the founder of the non-profit Nancy New and her son Zach New, who admitted that they defrauded the government of public funds by funneling public money to Lacoste.
But Lacoste claims he never knew the money he received was meant to help poor families, and now alleges the former president and federal officials were in on it.
Lacoste joins a growing number of defendants in the civil suit – including New NancyAnd the former welfare director’s nephew Austin Smith and former NFL Brett Favre which involve Bryant. That officer has not faced civil or criminal charges.
Mississippi Today first reported about Reeves’ connection to the fitness contract, including the meetings he had with Lacoste and former Bona director John Davis, who is expected to plead guilty to a fraud case in the state. Smith pushed the revelations to his attorney He must demand that the Prefect be guilty to the case
But Lacoste’s latest move doesn’t specifically name Reeves, only Bryant.
Because the Prefects control the administration of health, an agency under the role of the president, he is also in charge of the civil case, which Lacoste is pelting with dozens of others. Lacoste was also signed by the Governor in 2019.
Lacoste’s appeal said he was “a laughing stock in the entire state as someone who knowingly took money from needy people in Mississippi.”
“He did nothing of the kind,” the file reads. “This damage has and is being suffered as the next result of public neglect by MDHS (Mississippi Department of Human Services) when MDHS carelessly pays for camp opportunities with TANF funds.”
Lacoste asked the judge, Faye County Circuit Judge Hinds Peterson, to enter a judgment against MDHS and award him damages for emotional distress, among other things.
Athleta said he will attend a meeting with Bryant and Davis in mid-2018. He said representatives from the federal government, whose policies govern how states can spend their health care money, were in attendance.
Lacoste said Bryant and Davis told him they wanted to hire his organization as part of an initiative to reduce obesity and improve health for Mississippians. Although they enter into the health sector, Lacoste’s filing does not say that he is negotiating with the policy of reserving the poor family.
“At the conclusion of the meeting, state and federal attendees at the meeting asked Lacoste if he was interested in providing services state-wide,” reads Lacoste’s rejoinder. “Finally, Governor Bryant instructed John Davis to work on Lacoste, and the VSF (Victoria Sports Foundation) was ultimately selected to provide the services.
He discussed the civil charges filed by MDHS against Lacoste at this meeting as well, but in a much different way, and ignored the fact that Bryant and federal agents were there.
“Lacoste facilitated a meeting with Davis, in which Lacoste proposed to MDHS Executive Director John Davis that Davis solidly fund Victoria Sports (and thus Lacoste) in exchange for continuing to provide Lacoste with a ‘fitness camp’ to its elected officials, politicians, staff and participant fees. paying, reads MDHS’s amended civil complaint.
Lacoste, Davis and Reeves then met to discuss the fitness program in early 2019 – after Lacoste’s organization entered into a new non-profit contract, but before it received the bulk of the money. The agency was in financial turmoil at the time and had recently notified grants that their funding had been cut. MDHS bonds are conditional on funds being available, so the contract itself is not always a guarantee of funds.
Lacoste told Davis that they wanted to meet only the Prefects, adding: “Tate wants us all.”
Two days later, Davis ordered his deputy to make secret payments to the New Nonprofit for the Lacoste contract, calling it “an opportunity for Lt. Gov.,” referring to Gov. In charge, the lieutenant governor at the time of the incident.
Public Auditor Shad White, Bryant’s former campaign manager whom Bryant first appointed to his position, questioned the payments to Victoria’s sports program because “there was no eligibility determination that TANF participants were eligible or needy.”
But a forensic audit released in October 2021, which MDHS used as the basis for a civil complaint, sought payments from the Victoria Sports Foundation because they were known by Davis to be excessive authority.
“John Davis was influential in awarding Victory Sports a grant from MCEC,” the audience wrote.
None of the aforementioned audits involved Bryant’s or his supervisors obtaining contracts or payments for Lacoste.
The amended indictment of MDHS alleges that Davis “created a culture of secrecy and fear within the agency in order to conceal the unjust and fraudulent misuse of public funds entrusted to its authority.”
“MdHS has been fraudulently used to defraud these former athletes by using or arranging to provide federal TANF money,” he said.
Davis, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the ongoing investigation, has made no public comments about Bryant or Reeves being implicated.