By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Former Panola County administrator David Chandler pleaded guilty Wednesay to mail fraud and embezzlement.
The government said the funds came from the county for fraudulent overtime and work he never conducted.
“Your honor, I plead guilty,” he said to Judge Sharion Aycock.
Chandler, 56, a former state field auditor, faces up to 30 years in prison, $500,000 fine and restitution.
He was released on his personal recognizance.
Prosecutor Charles Spillers outlined Chandler’s illegal acts, including that he stole $50,124 from Panola County using a dummy business to collect late solid-waste fees, claimed $25,920 in overtime fees he wasn’t entitled to and filed fake invoices with the county totaling $33,567 for work that was never done.
These charges are different from those he was accused of as an unindicted co-conspirator in a multi-million-dollar health care fraud involving three others.
He is likely to be the government’s key witness against the trio accused of bribery and kickbacks while they were associated with Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.
Spillers told Aycock that Chandler has rendered “substantial assistance” to the government in its investigations.
He pleaded guilty to an information, which is a direct criminal charge made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, rather than a grand-jury issued indictment.
His plea agreement was signed Sept. 30, 2011.
“He understands and agrees to knowingly cooperate with the government,” said his attorney, Hiram Eastland Jr. of Greenwood.
Aycock told him she will not know about possible sentencing guidelines until they are computed later.
Facing trial in 2012 on the health care fraud allegations are Tupelo health care executive Raymond L. Shoemaker, Batesville businessman Earnest Levi “Lee” Garner Jr. and Batesville physician Robert S. Corkern.
Chandler was not accused in the scheme.
He will not be sentenced until after he testifies. He also is likely to expect government support for leniency if his cooperation is significant.