Former Panola exec expected to plead in health care fraud

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Former Panola County administrator David Chandler will plead guilty to what’s believed to be his involvement in a multi-million-dollar federal health care fraud scheme.
Details of the charges against him aren’t public, but new U.S. District Court filings say he will appear in federal court Dec. 14 to waive his indictment or the filing of an information and enter a plea to Counts 1 and 2 of the information.
An information is a criminal charge that doesn’t go through a grand jury, and it’s general practice in the Northern District court for prosecutors to secure a guilty-plea agreement before offering to charge someone using an information, instead of the indictment.
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.
But Chandler clearly has been in their cross-hairs for some time, with allegations going back to 2005.
Garner is accused of paying Chandler $268,000 in kickbacks and bribes allegedly to boost use of his nursing service with Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.
In an expanded indictment, termed a “superseding” one, 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 the hospital’s board president.
A new name cited repeatedly in the new indictment is David Vance, 64, a close associate of a third person indicted in the case, Dr. Robert S. Corkern of Batesville.
But Vance will not be brought to court – he died in a one-car accident Oct. 3, 2010, when his vehicle veered off a city street and struck a large oak tree.
Coroner Gracie Guledge said his cause of death was blunt-force trauma from hitting the tree, although his autopsy showed he’d had some heart problems. It did not show, however, that he was having a heart attack when the accident occurred, she noted.
Vance is termed Corkern’s “personal representative” who signed on as his friend’s “consultant” and got paid more than $600,000 when Corkern bought the hospital.
The indictment accuses Vance of misleading banks and the U.S. government that a new $4 million line of credit was essential for the hospital’s future.
It’s not known if Vance also cooperated with the government’s investigation, like Chandler.
Corkern pleaded not guilty to five counts Tuesday and will go on trial with Shoemaker and Garner in December.
If convicted on all counts, Shoemaker faces up to 145 years in prison and $5 million in fines, Garner up to 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines, and Corkern 105 years in prison and $3.5 million in fines.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com