Ex-Panola official pleads guilty to mail fraud, embezzlement

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Former Panola County administrator David Chandler today pleaded guilty 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.

He was released on his personal recognizance until he is sentenced.

Charges against him are different from those he was accused 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 three others accused of bribery and kickbacks while they were associated with Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.

Prosecutor Charles Spillers told Aycock that Chandler has rendered “substantial assistance” to the government in its investigations.

Chandler, 56, a former state field auditor, faces up to 30 years in prison, $500,000 fine and restitution.

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.

Others facing a trial in 2012 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, although he is mentioned prominently in their indictment.

He will not be sentenced until after he testifies against them. He also is likely to expect government support for leniency if his cooperation is significant.

• For more details, read Thursday’s Daily Journal.