Agent: Federal Kickback Scheme

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2012

Agent enters guilty plea for kickback

Edgerton and federal investigation timeline
•    October, 2005. The Panola County Board of Supervisors hires Richard Edgerton as the agent of record for county health insurance.
•    July 9, 2009. An FBI agent conducts the first interview with Edgerton.
•    July 29, 2009. Edgerton brings a purported e-mail from Wanda Chandler when he appears before a federal grand jury.
•    December, 2011. David Chandler pleads guilty to mail fraud and embezzlement in a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
• July 18, 2012. Edgerton pleads guilty to one count of a two-count indictment, admitting he presented a false document to the grand jury.

By Billy Davis

Insurance agent Richard Edgerton has entered a guilty plea before a federal judge, admitting he was involved in a kickback scheme with former County Administrator David Chandler.

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Edgerton, of Madison, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock Wednesday in Oxford according to court documents.

Edgerton was represented by attorney Grady Tollison Jr. of Oxford. A sentencing date has not been set and Edgerton is free on bond until then.

Edgerton’s plea this week amounts to a finale for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford, which has been pursuing a case against Chandler and other defendants since 2008.

Chandler cut a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and named Edgerton, Panola County businessman Lee Garner, and Ray Shoemaker, the former Tri-Lakes Medical Center executive.

Chandler pleaded guilty to mail fraud and embezzlement last December, and is awaiting sentencing.

In March a federal jury seated in Oxford found Garner and Shoemaker guilty of federal charges that included bribery and fraud. They are awaiting sentencing while their attorneys seek a new trial.

Edgerton was employed 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.

A federal indictment unsealed last April alleged that Edgerton oversaw a health insurance contract with Panola County and paid a county official, and his wife, for the business.

The official nor the wife were named in the indictment, though it was known at the time that Chandler was cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

It became clear the wife was Chandler’s wife, Wanda, when Edgerton created a faked e-mail in 2009 for FBI agents to cover up the kickback scheme.

The e-mail, purportedly from Wanda Chandler to Edgerton, states that payments mistakenly made to her husband should have been made to her instead for work she performed for the insurance agency.

After Edgerton presented the faked document to the FBI — a criminal offense — he then showed it to a federal grand jury in Oxford, a second criminal offense.

The Panolian reported last year that Edgerton’s original grand jury indictment in April was changed two months later to include an “obstruction of justice” charge. The new language in the superseding indictment changed a maximum prison sentence from five to ten years.

Panola County Administrator Kelley Magee has said Edgerton was overseeing the 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,” Magee said last year.

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