Lee Scott Varner II is a former director of the special programs division of the Department of Agriculture Graduate School. His title was incorrect in a story in yesterday's editions.

A former director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School and his wife pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding the government of $53,500 through a bogus consulting scheme.

Lee Scott Varner II and Donna Varner of Annapolis pleaded guilty to billing the Army for $250-a-day consulting work supposedly performed by a Silver Spring woman, Linda O'Brien Hosein.

Hosein, who pleaded guilty in June to two misdemeanor counts of fraudulently receiving less than $100 from the Army, said she never performed the consulting work.

Hosein kept 8 percent of the $53,500 to cover federal income tax costs, and returned $49,200 to the Varners, according to the indictment.

The Varners' attorney, John J. McDermott, said that Lee Varner performed the consulting work for the Army, but listed Hosein as the consultant because as the graduate school director he could not legally do the work himself.

Hosein was given a two-year suspended sentenced and ordered to serve 100 hours of community service after she agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation of the Varners.

Lee Varner faces a possible 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine for the two counts of filing false claims and one criminal information charging that he wrote false statements. Donna Varner faces a possible six years in prison and a $11,000 fine for the one count of filing a false claim and one criminal information charging that she wrote false statements.

Both are scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 6.