Kickback Charges

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Past insurance agent for county latest to face kickback charge

By Billy Davis

A Madison, Miss. insurance agent is the latest person with connections to Panola County government now facing federal charges in Oxford

A federal indictment handed down in April alleges Richard Erwin Edgerton lied to FBI agents, and later to a federal grand jury, when he was questioned about an alleged kickback scheme.  

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Edgerton is free on $30,000 bond with his case set for August 15, though his attorney Gray Tollison Sr. is seeking a continuance due to other pending cases.

The six-page indictment, now unsealed, alleges Edgerton oversaw a health insurance contract with Panola County and paid a county official, and his wife, for the business.

The Panola County official is not named in the indictment, though local officials believe the alleged kickback involved former Panola County Administrator David Chandler.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment by press time Monday afternoon.  

Federal authorities have already said Chandler is cooperating with them in a separate federal investigation into kickbacks for nursing services at Tri-Lakes Medical Center that dates back to 2005.  

Panola County businessman Lee Garner and Ray Shoemaker, a former CEO at Tri-Lakes, are scheduled for trial in October in U.S. District Court in Oxford.

Garner and Shoemaker face a maximum 25 years and 80 years in prison respectively if convicted on all 10 counts of a federal indictment announced in March.

The latest federal indictment alleges FBI agents interviewed Edgerton in 2009 about checks he had written to the Panola County official and his wife. The insurance agent claimed he was paying the wife for insurance work and that payments to the county official had been a mistake.

To back up his claim, Edgerton purportedly showed the federal grand jury an e-mail he claimed he had received from the wife of the official. It read:

Dear Richard,

The check we received should have been made out to me. Please sent the tax forms to me and make all further checks to me.

Thank you,


Federal authorities allege the e-mail was faked and they charged Edgerton with producing a false document to the grand jury, which is count two in the indictment.  

Count one in the indictment alleges Edgerton attempted to obstruct the federal investigation by lying to an FBI agent on two occasions and by presenting the e-mail as evidence before the grand jury.

After grand jurors handed down the two-count indictment in April, the U.S. Attorney’s Office apparently sought new language in count two that includes a reference to “obstruction of justice.”

A newer indictment, known as a superseding indictment, was handed down in June by the federal grand jury according to court documents obtained by The Panolian.

The court documents show count one now carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence; the earlier language carried a five-year maximum.

Edgerton was apparently employed for several years as an independent insurance agent who sought insurance policies on behalf of Panola County government.

A Ridgeland-based company, Gathings Insurance Partners, is performing a similar role today, with agent Kirk Scoggins acting as Panola County’s agent of record.

Panola County Administrator Kelley Magee recalled Monday that Edgerton was overseeing Panola County’s health insurance policy until 2009, when it was time for the Board of Supervisors to seek bids for a one-year contract.

“There were four bids and Edgerton bid and he lost,” said Magee, who had replaced Chandler as administrator in 2008.

Edgerton oversaw insurance policies for health, life and dental, said Panola Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock.

The federal indictment states that Edgerton was employed by an insurance company when he was named Panola County’s agent of record on December 1, 2005 at the request of the Board of Supervisors.

Before the month was over, Edgerton had written his first check to the Panola County official according to the indictment.

The first FBI agent conducted his first interview with the insurance agent on July 6, 2009.