Panola ex-admin to plead guilty in kickback scheme

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, October 15, 2011

Former Panola County administrator David Chandler plans to plead guilty to involvement in an alleged kickback scheme at Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville, his attorney said Friday.

Federal prosecutors claim Chandler acted as a middleman for kickbacks.

“David has been cooperating with the government and intends to fully cooperate with the government,” Chandler’s attorney, Hiram Eastland of Greenwood, told The Associated Press.

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Details of the charges against Chandler aren’t public, but new court documents show he will appear in federal court to enter a plea to 2 counts of a bill of information — a criminal charge that doesn’t go through a grand jury.

In north Mississippi federal court, prosecutors usually secure a guilty-plea agreement before offering to charge someone using a bill of information instead of an indictment.

Eastland said Chandler’s court date is pending in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen. Others alleged to be involved in the medical fraud scheme are set for trial Dec. 12.

Chandler is believed to be a government informant and key trial witness against two other area men, who were indicted on multiple counts in the fraud scheme.

His name appears in their charges claiming health care fraud conspiracy and nursing services/bribery conspiracy, as well as federal program bribery.

Raymond Shoemaker, 39, of Tupelo, and Levi “Lee” Garner, 71, of Batesville were indicted months ago and are free on bond while they prepare for their Dec. 12 trial in Oxford.

The charges against Chandler are separate from theirs and give prosecutors some leeway in how they handle his case, apart from the others.

Garner is accused of paying Chandler $268,000 in kickbacks and bribes, allegedly to boost the use of Garner’s nursing service with Tri-Lakes.

In an indictment, Chandler is mentioned prominently as a third party in the alleged scheme during the time Shoemaker was chief operating officer and then chief executive officer for Tri-Lakes. The hospital initially was owned by the city of Batesville and Panola County, and Chandler was president of the hospital board.