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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Six years after FBI case began, Greensburg lab owner pleads guilty in wide-ranging kickback scheme
By Torsten Ove
June 19, 2020

Psychiatrist Varanise Booker

Psychiatrist Varanise Booker

The owner of a Greensburg medical testing company at the center of a kickback scheme involving doctors from around the country admitted his guilt Friday before a federal judge.

William Hughes, 73, owner of Universal Oral Fluid Labs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and is now a federal felon.

Prosecutors said that from October 2011 to August 2013, Hughes and his lab entered into a kickbacks-for-referrals arrangement with his psychiatrist co-defendant, Dr. Varanise Booker, owner of Family and Children Behavioral Services in Louisville.

Under the deal, Hughes agreed to pay Dr. Booker to refer patients, including those who were covered under Medicare and the Kentucky Medicaid program, to Universal for drug testing services in exchange for cash.

From September 2012 to August 2013, the lab obtained $1.6 million from the Kentucky Medicaid program based on those referrals, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone will sentence Hughes in November.

Hughes and Dr. Booker have been under indictment since 2018 and the FBI had been investigating Hughes for years before that.

The case first surfaced publicly in 2014 when U.S. prosecutors filed a forfeiture action to seize $753,955, which they said constituted the proceeds of fraud.

The probe has since ensnared other medical professionals.

John Johnson, a former pain clinic doctor in Hollidaysburg, admitted that he accepted at least $2.3 million in kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to Hughes’ lab for drug testing and screening. Johnson was sentenced to 84 months in prison.

In addition, Dr. Robert Fetchero, an osteopath in Jeannette, along with two doctors from Florida and another from Indiana agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle civil claims brought by the Department of Justice that they received kickbacks for referrals to Hughes’ lab.