Garner, Shoemaker trial begins

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Long-delayed federal trial begins today in Oxford

By Billy Davis

A federal criminal trial is set to begin today in Oxford for Panola County businessman Lee Garner and Ray Shoemaker, a former executive at Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

Federal prosecutors allege Shoemaker and Garner colluded with David Chandler in a kickback scheme at Tri-Lakes involving Garner’s nurse staffing business.  

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The trial is expected to begin at 9 a.m. when a federal jury is picked in Courtroom 3 West.

The trial, originally set for last April, was set for February 21 after Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. tired of continuous requests for continuance from defense attorneys.

Chandler was Panola County administrator and oversaw the hospital board before the sale of Tri-Lakes, when he allegedly pocketed $268,000 for convincing Shoemaker to use and retain Garner’s business’s services.

The federal investigation claims Garner’s business profited from the nursing contract while Chandler gave Shoemaker a raise at the hospital and later used his own kickback funds to pay Shoemaker’s own kickback.  

Chandler pleaded guilty last December to unrelated charges of mail fraud and embezzlement in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Chandler has cooperated with federal authorities over the past year and is expected to testify on behalf of prosecutors.  

Garner has assembled five attorneys to fight the federal charges. His defense will include CPA Mark Bullock who is expected to testify that the nursing business was operating legitimately despite prosecutors’ claims.

Federal prosecutors protested to Bullock being called an “expert witness” in front of jurors, and attorneys for both sides have been battling for weeks as the trial approached.

Shoemaker is represented by three attorneys according to court documents.

Batesville physician Robert Corkern has also struck a deal with prosecutors after federal authorities alleged they uncovered a separate scheme carried out by Corkern and Shoemaker at Tri-Lakes.

Corkern pleaded guilty to a charge of bribery in January before Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr.