Going Ringside Ep. 9: The DiBiase indictment

Analyzing the Federal Indictment of Ted DiBiase Jr. for defrauding the state of Mississippi

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The news was out and shocked the pro wrestling world on April 20 that an ex-WWE star from a prominent wrestling family was facing serious Federal charges. That would be Ted Dibiase Jr. the son of the even more well known “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase Sr.

Almost 15-years ago exactly Ted Dibiase Jr. entered the bright lights of the WWE as a member of the newly formed “Legacy” stable. DiBiase joined other legacy wrestlers, Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes to form the stable which was in fact called “The Legacy.”

He portrayed a villainous character who was frankly better than the other performers because his father, Ted DiBiase Sr. had paved the way. This was of course an act for the cameras but the indictment out of Mississippi shows that Ted DiBiase Jr. felt entitled. Not necessarily to a family lineage in the wrestling business but entitled to welfare dollars meant for low-income families.

Now that alleged feeling of entitlement could cost him his freedom as the indictment against him lists several charges:

  • 1 count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft concerning programs receiving federal funds
  • 6 counts of wire fraud
  • 2 counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds
  • 4 counts of money laundering

It’s frankly hard to navigate the intricacies of what type of punishment each count carries but the worst case scenario for DiBiase shows he could spend 80 years behind bars. That amount of years is unlikely but it shows the totality of the importance the federal government is placing on these crimes.

READ: DiBiase, Jr. Indictment

Where it all started

The allegations listed in the 12-page indictment show these elaborate schemes ran from 2016 through 2019 and involved a few different entities involved with the disbursal of Welfare dollars. The funds came from two primary sources: The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

DiBiase isn’t the only one facing charges. The other co-conspirators are John Davis, Christi Webb, Nancy New and others that Federal Prosecutors did not name in their release. John Davis was former Mississippi Department of Human Services Director. His office oversaw much of the disbursal of funds. The indictment says the money was funneled to two non-profits called the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi Inc and the Mississippi Community Education Center.

Then the money was sent further to two of DiBiase’s organizations called Priceless Ventures LLC and Familiae Orientem LLC for Social Services.

Here is a list from the indictment of when the money was transferred:

  • On or about May 15, 2018 - $500,000 purportedly for leadership outreach services for FRC (Family Resource Center of North Mississippi Inc).
  • On or about May 15, 2018 – two payments totaling approximately $500,000 in federal funds to Priceless.
  • On or about May 17, 2018 – approximately $500,000 in federal funds to Priceless.
  • On or about May 17, 2018 – DiBiase deposited approximately $1,020,833.33 in federal funds into a checking account at BankPlus in the name of Priceless.
  • On or about May 22, 2018 – FRC entered into a contract with DiBiase through Priceless for approximately $497,987 purportedly to assess the need for emergency food assistance.
  • On or about June 26, 2018, the day after the formation of Familiae in Wyoming, FRC entered into a sham contract with DiBiase through Familiae for approximately $1,000,000 purportedly to create the RISE Program to address the needs of inner-city youth.
  • On or about October 1, 2018, MCEC entered into a sham contract with DiBiase through Priceless for approximately $250,000 purportedly for the delivery of services for MCEC.

In the release from the Department of Justice it says “DiBiase allegedly used these federal funds to buy a vehicle and a boat, and for the down payment on the purchase of a house, among other expenditures.” It also talks about DiBiase’s lack of intent to put the money toward it’s intended purpose when his companies were given money “for social services that DiBiase did not provide and did not intend to provide.”

DiBiase isn’t the only famous name who’s been mentioned in this controversy. One other name to be mentioned, but not criminally charged is NFL legend Brett Favre. Favre is not mentioned in this indictment but has been the subject of civil lawsuits in Mississippi stemming from welfare funds being diverted to him for services. He has paid many of them back.

MORE EPISODES: Going Ringside with The Local Station

Who is Ted DiBiase Jr.?

Ted DiBiase Jr. comes from a prominent wrestling family. His grandfather Mike DiBiase was a wrestler but the family came to national prominence because of his father Ted DiBiase Sr. Following years in wrestling’s territorial system of the 1980′s Ted Sr. rose to national prominence when he was hired by the WWF and given the gimmick of the “Million Dollar Man”. In that gimmick DiBiase Sr. played a villainous millionaire who flaunted his wealth and was willing to pay off people for wins and other wrestling accolades. Many wrestling fans consider him one of the greatest “heels” of all time.

Along the way he was closely linked with an on-screen bodyguard named Virgil (real name Michael Jones). Virgil and DiBiase were linked for years due to the success of their wrestling gimmick and eventually feuded over what was called the “Million Dollar Belt”. It was a belt DiBiase Sr. (in character) had made and appeared to be made of gold dollar signs and diamonds on the front. The two eventually feuded over the belt and following the news of the indictment of DiBiase Jr. Jones put out this tweet.

DiBiase Sr. continued with the “Million Dollar Man” gimmick as both a wrestler and manager for several years through the 1990′s. By the early 2000′s DiBiase Sr. had returned to the now WWE in a backstage capacity but would regularly appear on camera still in his “Million Dollar Man” gimmick which is a persona that continues to follow him to this day..

But as his active wrestling career was wrapping up DiBiase Sr. became a Christian minister and has slowly turned into one of the most well known Evangelical ministers in the country. Often times, DiBiase Sr. speaks of his wrestling past in his testimony to congregations and other groups he speaks to. One organization he started was Heart of David Ministry in 1999.

DiBiase Sr. and Heart of David Ministry both received federal welfare funds and has been ordered to pay some of those monies back but he has not been criminally charged in the case.

Following the news of his son’s indictment he put out this statement on Twitter which was somewhat unclear but it was removed without explanation.

Statement put out on Twitter by Ted Dibiase Sr. that was later deleted (Twitter)

DiBiase Jr. entered the wrestling industry like his father in 2008. He kept his name Ted DiBiase Jr. and played up on his heritage as part of his gimmick in wrestling. He immediately entered a stable called “The Legacy” with two other generational wrestlers Cody Rhodes (son of wrestler Dusty Rhodes) and Randy Orton (son of wrestler Bob Orton). They portrayed themselves as better than the other wrestlers because they grew up in the wrestling industry unlike many of their contemporaries in WWE.

DiBiase Jr. eventually took on his father’s old gimmick and reprised the “Million Dollar Man” gimmick. He even brought back Virgil for a time to reprise his old bodyguard role.

During his tenure in WWE DiBiase Jr. even starred in a movie. He starred in the Marine 2 which was released as a direct to DVD movie in 2009. It was the sequel to the original Marine movie starring John Cena that was released in 2006. Wrestler The Miz has also starred in that franchise.

Five year old Sophia Dujon shows off her signed poster from WWE wrestler Ted DiBiase at the Kmart store in Trussville Al. Saturday Jan.16, 2010. DiBase was in town for an evening WWE event in nearby Birmingham. Gary Tramontina/AP Images for Kmart/WWE (Associated Press)

DiBiase Jr. continued in WWE until 2013 when he eventually left the company. While he did continue to wrestle on the independent circuit for several years he also started following in his father’s footsteps in another aspect of life. He started multiple seemingly charitable organizations and remained closely aligned wit his father.

The two entities that are in question with respect to the indictment are Priceless Ventures LLC and Familiae Orientem LLC. In the indictment shows “Priceless Ventures LLC (”Priceless”) was a Limited Liability Company formed and registered in Mississippi on or about May 11, 2017″ and “Familiae Orientem LLC (”Familiae”) was a Limited Liability Company formed and registered in Wyoming on or about June 25, 2018.”

By this time DiBiase was well out of wrestling and “a resident of Madison County, Mississippi, was the manager and owner of Priceless, the owner of 99 percent of Familiae, and the owner of K&T. DiBiase was an agent of both Priceless and Familiae,” reads the indictment.

DiBiase’s Laywer Responds

While the DiBiase family has been relatively silent on the scandal his attorney did finally release a statement. NBC News reported this statement: “After being forced to sit quietly for nearly three years while opportunists took unabated swings at Teddy and his family, Teddy now has the opportunity to fight back publicly,” said his attorney Scott Gilbert. “As much as every one of us have the right to decide for ourselves whether our government is effective or prudent in the way it carries out its functions, criminalizing what, in hindsight, may be fairly characterized as poor fiscal management by the executive branch of state government is a dangerous and worrisome precedent.”

DiBiase Jr. was confronted leaving court last week and declined any comment. He only said “Jesus loves you, brother. God bless you, man,”

What could realistically happen to Ted DiBiase Jr.?

While DiBiase Jr. could theoretically face 80 years in prison it’s highly unlikely he would get a sentence that severe.

“I don’t see that very likely. I think the real high number sentences we see are for real violent crimes. Crimes against children. White collar crimes not so much,” said Belkis Plata with Plata Schott Law based in Jacksonville. She’s a defense attorney not affiliated with the case.

“It really depends on how much they fight this and cooperating and whether the government is willing to work with him.”

Plata said despite the public statement from DiBiase’s attorneys, it’s possible they could have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with him privately describing to him the realistic nature of the Government’s case against him. She says the Federal Government’s success rate in cases like these is quite high. “The Feds do an absolutely amazing job at investigating their cases. And they normally do not bring them to a Grand Jury for an indictment until they have everything they need for a conviction,” said Plata.

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.