COLUMBIA -- The head of a Northeast Richland clinic that treats men for erectile dysfunction has been indicted on federal charges of illegal steroid distribution, health-care fraud, money laundering and identity fraud.
Christopher G. Laughter, 50, of Lyme Bay, Lexington County, administrator of the National Men's Health Clinic, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
Federal prosecutors say such a sentence is unlikely, though.
Laughter faces 17 counts of possession with intent to distribute testosterone, eight counts of health care fraud and one count each of identity fraud and money laundering.
Attempts to reach Laughter on Tuesday were unsuccessful. A sign on the clinic's door said it closed May 1, but it didn't specify why.
Laughter is to appear in federal court next month for arraignment.
The clinic at 115 Blarney Drive, Suite 109, gave testosterone injections to men to boost their energy and sex drive.
DEA agents probing Applied Pharmacy Services, an online pharmacy based in Mobile, Ala., were led to National Men's Health Clinic, where testosterone was sent, federal prosecutors say.
Applied Pharmacy reportedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs to a number of Major League Baseball players and other professional athletes, according to The Associated Press.
But First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald is not aware of National Men's Health Clinic providing steroids for performance enhancement among professional or college athletes.
"That's one of the issues we're going to be looking at in this investigation," McDonald said.
It's unclear whether anyone else will be charged.
"At this point, it's an open investigation," McDonald said. "We'll see where it takes us."
When Applied Pharmacy was no longer able to deliver anabolic steroids to the clinic in mid-2006, Laughter allegedly used an expired DEA registration of Dr. Richard Cheng, who never worked at the clinic, to order steroids, court documents say.
Cheng, who court records say is licensed at another location, could not be reached for comment.
On six occasions, Laughter used the expired license to order Testosterone Cypionate, most recently March 26, according to Hawthorne Pharmacy on Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia, according to an affidavit filed to obtain a search warrant.
The DEA raided the clinic last spring, seeking medical records of patients listed as having received the drug, billing or payment information, insurance records and other items, according to the warrant filed in April.
Laughter received in excess of $25,000 for causing fraudulent claims to be submitted and fraudulently billing Medicare and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina between Nov. 1, 2002, and Jan. 31, 2007, in connection with the delivery of and payment of health care benefits, items and services, the indictment says.
From January 2006 to January 2007, NMHC submitted more than $11,000 in claims to Medicare for one contract physician, who worked one day in 2006 and none in 2007, the indictment says.
On eight occasions, beginning Jan. 27, 2006, Laughter submitted and caused to be submitted to Palmetto GBA fraudulent statements and billings for evaluation and management services not rendered, the indictment says.
It says he illegally possessed testosterone with intent to distribute 17 times between Jan. 10, 2006, and March 22, 2007.
Laughter allegedly used the scheme to purchase a 1999 Mercedes Benz, according to the indictment.
The federal government is seeking repayment of what Laughter was paid for the alleged illegal billings and other fraud, including at least $32,750 he allegedly laundered, according to the indictment.