By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Businessman Ray Shoemaker said he was driving through a central Mississippi town one day and noticed a small church congregation operating out of a laundromat.
When he came to learn of an impending eviction, he said he told its pastor to find a church building and he would buy it for them.
“They had nowhere to go,” Shoemaker, 39, said this week to the Daily Journal in a telephone conversation about his history and business activities. The conversation was in response to an article published Tuesday about difficulties he faces after a recent federal conviction.
He revealed the church story, he said, to correct information published about a $165,000 gift the Journal mistakenly reported was for a Tupelo church, when it was for the Forest congregation. And he took issue with other portions of Tuesday’s article.
Loan documents dated Nov. 1, 2006, show that Shoemaker borrowed $116,649 from the Bank of Forest to purchase property owned by Covenant Presbyterian Church there. For that purchase, he added $50,000 cash for a total $165,000 acquisition price.
Documents show he paid off that loan in August 2008.
Shoemaker also took issue with the Journal’s report of a $58,145 tax lien against him, which he said was wrongly attributed to him for taxes owed by a hospital where he later became administrator. Once he proved to the court that he wasn’t responsible for that debt, his responsibility was cleared from the record and he did not have to pay anything.
He says he has made up financial arrears on fees or taxes for two corporations, including his flag-ship Rural Healthcare Developers Inc., and provided the Journal with supporting documents, including copies of checks dated March 13.
A spokesman at the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office said it may take as much as 45 days for their dissolved and intent-to-dissolve status to be changed to good standing after the issues have been resolved.
Shoemaker of Tupelo and Batesville businessman Lee Garner were convicted March 2 in U.S. District Court on multiple counts that they were involved with a kickback-bribery scheme while Shoemaker was a top executive with Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville. Garner operated a nurse staffing service.
Both men maintain their innocence and are appealing the verdict.
Tuesday’s Daily Journal story examined some of the business challenges facing Shoemaker as sentencing looms in a few months.
The story also published information from public documents about other current and former Shoemaker enterprises.
In one interview, an attorney for the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors said Shoemaker’s contract to operate the hospital in Port Gibson had been terminated.
Shoemaker said the situation “was news to me” and expects a reversal at the board’s April meeting.
He also said that a report in a local newspaper that his Erin, Tenn., hospital had missed payrolls was inaccurate.
Erin’s administrator Kent Strum said Wednesday that Shoemaker is, in effect, giving up his ownership to a larger company to help make it more financially viable. He also said the small critical-care facility has had some tough going financially but he sees good change with its impending sale to a larger network.
He said they almost missed a payroll in February and secured money from the county to cover it but have not missed any pay days there.
Shoemaker said that, frankly, he’s in the business of challenges at his Rural Healthcare Developers Inc.
“I buy businesses that are struggling” and then he invests in them, he noted. “This is what I do … and try to make them profitable.”
RHD’s Tupelo office remains open, its employees on the job and its future viable, he said.
His business challenges, he said, are not related to two other charges or the recent conviction.
Few people know, he said, “how much of myself I have given to mankind.”