Garner pleads not guilty in bribery scheme at Tri-Lakes

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ray Shoemaker of Tupelo apparently will appear alone today to answer charges he operated a hospital kickback scheme.
Monday, attorneys for his co-defendant – Earnest Levi “Lee” Garner Jr. of Batesville – entered a not-guilty plea for him and said he waived his appearance at their arraignment.
Garner has retained Christi R. McCoy of Oxford and Ronald Michael of Booneville to represent him in the U.S. District Court case.
Indictments against Shoemaker and Garner were made public last week by the U.S. attorney’s office.
Garner, 66, and Shoemaker, 38, are accused in an alleged nursing services kickback and bribery scheme at Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.
Court records late Monday did not show any legal representation listed for Shoemaker, who is the hospital’s former chief executive officer and former chief operating officer.
Shoemaker also is charged with embezzling from Humphreys County Hospital in Belzoni, when he was its administrator.
Both are free on $50,000 secured bond each.
Shoemaker was still scheduled to appear before Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander for a formal reading of the charges against him.
Their indictment says the alleged Tri-Lakes scheme occurred between May 2005 and June 2007.
David Chandler, described then as Panola County’s administrator and a Tri-Lakes board president, also is accused but not indicted as being part of their scheme.
The indictment claims Garner, a Panola County businessman, paid Chandler $268,000 in kickbacks and bribes for nursing service hours billed to the hospital by Garner’s business.
In return, Chandler was to use his influence to increase Tri-Lakes’ use of Garner’s business and ensure their bills’ timely payment.
Chandler also is accused of paying Shoemaker $12,000, which was toward a demand for an alleged $25,000 bribe.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.