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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Physician Pleads Guilty to Accepting Kickbacks and Failing to Remit Employment Taxes

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A pain management doctor who owned and operated a group of pain management clinics within the Western District of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting kickbacks in connection with a clinical drug testing referral scheme operated by Universal Oral Fluid Labs (UOFL), of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Acting United States Attorney Soo C. Song announced today.

Dr. John H. Johnson, 55, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson to an information charging him with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, and Count One of an indictment charging him with willfully failing to remit employment taxes.

In connection with Dr. Johnson’s guilty plea for conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, the court was informed that from in or around May, 2011, and continuing until at least November, 2013, Johnson accepted at least $2.3 million in kickbacks in return for referring patients, including Medicare and Medicaid patients, to UOFL for clinical drug testing and drug screening. UOFL then received millions of dollars from third party payors, including approximately $3,443,528 from Medicare and $1,147,768 from Pennsylvania Medicaid, based on Johnson’s referrals.

In connection with Dr. Johnson’s guilty plea to willfully failing to remit employment taxes, the court was informed that from on or about July 1, 2013 to on or about September 30, 2013, Johnson failed to truthfully account for and pay over to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) all of the federal income taxes withheld and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes due and owing to the United States on behalf of Johnson’s company, Central Anesthesia, and its employees. Johnson is responsible for repayment to the IRS of more than $700,000 as a result of his unlawful tax practices.

“A physician’s decisions about what medical care to provide, and who will provide it, should be based upon the best interests of their patients, rather than a physician’s financial interests,” said Acting U. S. Attorney Soo C. Song. “The defendant who pleaded guilty today abused his position of trust by accepting kickbacks for referring his patients to UOFL, and by failing to meet his tax obligations.”

“Once again this demonstrates the effective cooperation we maintain with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners whether it be white collar crimes, drugs or violent crime” said Robert Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Pittsburgh Division.

“Criminal kickback schemes destroy trust in health care decision-making and lead to increased costs to our Federal health care benefit programs,” said Nick DiGiulio, Special Agent in Charge of the Inspector General's Office for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in Philadelphia. “We will continue to work with our partners to expose corrupt business arrangements in the health care industry.”

"Business owners have a responsibility to withhold income taxes for their employees and then remit those taxes to the Internal Revenue Service," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Greg Floyd. "The failure to pay over withheld taxes is a serious offense. IRS Criminal Investigation vigorously pursues anyone who collects taxes and fails to timely remit those taxes."

Judge Gibson scheduled sentencing for October 11, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $260,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Stephanie L. Haines and Colin J. Callahan are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Section conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Dr. Johnson.

Updated June 27, 2017