Hempfield clinical drug testing lab owner, Kentucky psychiatrist indicted in kickback scheme
By Paul Peirce
February 22, 2018

Psychiatrist Varanise Booker

Psychiatrist Varanise Booker

The owner of a now-defunct Hempfield Township clinical drug testing and drug screening lab and a Kentucky psychiatrist were indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on conspiracy charges related to kickbacks for patient referrals.

U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said the criminal conspiracy indictment was returned Wednesday against William J. Hughes, 70, of Pittsburgh, and Dr. Varanise C. Booker, 62, of Louisville, Ky.

The indictment alleges that the kickback scheme defrauded federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Hughes was the owner of Universal Oral Fluid Labs on Willow Crossing Road and Booker, of Kentucky, is a licensed psychiatric physician who owned and operated Family and Children Behavioral Health Services in Louisville.

Brady said the grand jury alleges that between September 2012 and August 2013 Booker received $843,242 in kickbacks from Hughes for patient referrals.

“Universal Oral Fluid Labs then received millions of dollars from third party payors, including Medicare, based on Dr. Booker’s referrals,” Brady said in a news release.

The criminal indictment is part of a years-long investigation into Hughes and the laboratory.

In 2014, federal agents disclosed their investigation into health care fraud in court filings after they had seized $754,000 including $68,500 in cash, $415,000 in a certificate of deposit with WestBanco and $269,900 from a Hughes-controlled account at First Commonwealth Bank in Indiana.

Hughes could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Brady reported that the FBI, Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, IRS and state Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Section assisted in the investigation.

Brady said the law provides for a maximum sentence for each defendant of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based on the seriousness of the offenses and prior criminal history of the defendants.