So­cial Se­cu­rity fraud­ster slips mon­i­tor­ing de­vice, es­capes

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Ken­tucky lawyer who led one of the big­gest So­cial Se­cu­rity frauds in his­tory re­moved his elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing de­vice and ap­pears to be on the run, the FBI said late Satur­day, writ­ing the lat­est chap­ter in a bizarre soap opera that’s em­bar­rassed the gov­ern­ment and left hun­dreds of peo­ple strug­gling.

Eric C. Conn pleaded guilty just months ago to bilk­ing the gov­ern­ment out of po­ten­tially $550 mil­lion in bo­gus So­cial Se­cu­rity dis­abil­ity cases.

He had been free on a $1.25 mil­lion bond since 2016, and had in­sisted to a fed­eral judge that he was not a flight risk, even though au­thor­i­ties said he had re­peat­edly told his em­ploy­ees he had money stashed overseas and would flee to Ecuador or Cuba if he ever ended up le­gal trou­ble.

On Satur­day the FBI said the court has now is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for Conn.

“In vi­o­la­tion of bond, Mr. Conn re­moved his elec­tronic mon­i­tor­ing de­vice and his where­abouts is cur­rently un­known,” the FBI said.

The FBI said any­one with in­for­ma­tion about Conn’s lo­ca­tion should con­tact the FBI in Louisville at 502/263-6000.

Conn was await­ing sen­tenc­ing next month for his role in the dis­abil­ity scheme, in which he kept a sta­ble of doc­tors pre­pared to write false med­i­cal re­ports, and paid off a So­cial Se­cu­rity ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge to ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tions with no ques­tions asked, ac­cord­ing to his plea agree­ment.

All told, nearly 1,750 bo­gus cases were ap­proved in the scheme, which net­ted Conn and his as­so­ciates nearly $6 mil­lion.

“I’m very con­cerned for Eric,” said Scott White, Conn’s lawyer, in a state­ment to The Washington Times. “It’s a de­fense at­tor­ney’s worst night­mare as not only has he placed him­self at very real risk, but law en­force­ment and the pub­lic.

“It’s tragic be­cause by ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity and be­ing will­ing to tes­tify he had the op­por­tu­nity to restart his life,” Mr. White said. “Just very sad and we pray he snaps out of it and turns him­self in. It’s not too late to fix this if he does.”

Conn was ex­pected to tes­tify against Al­fred B. Ad­kins, a psy­chol­o­gist who would rub­ber-stamp the dis­abil­ity ap­pli­ca­tion med­i­cal re­ports that Conn would then send to the ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge, David B. Daugh­erty.

Daugh­erty pleaded guilty last month and is also await­ing sen­tenc­ing.

Conn was well known through­out eastern Ken­tucky and West Vir­ginia, where he called him­self “Mr. So­cial Se­cu­rity” and promised an un­canny abil­ity to win dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits for his clients. He even had a crew of “Conn Hot­ties,” young women he dis­patched to com­mu­nity events in skin-tight T-shirts that ad­ver­tised his law firm and its phone num­ber, 1-800-232-HURT.

Af­ter the scheme was re­ported in The Wall Street Jour­nal in 2011, Conn be­gan to de­stroy doc­u­ments de­tail­ing the fraud, and even had one of his law firm em­ploy­ees fal­sify a video to try to get a whistle­blower fired by dis­cred­it­ing her, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Courts have or­dered Mr. Conn and his law firm to pay more than $36 mil­lion in resti­tu­tion, dam­ages and penal­ties.

As Conn was in­dicted, fear spread through the Ken­tucky and West Vir­ginia com­mu­ni­ties that had re­lied on him as So­cial Se­cu­rity sent out no­tices can­cel­ing ben­e­fits.

Ned Pillers­dorf, a Ken­tucky lawyer who took up Conn’s clients’ cause, said at least three sui­cides were di­rectly linked to the pay­ment sus­pen­sions, and per­haps three oth­ers could also be linked.

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