Fugitive lawyer behind huge disability scam explains why he ran off
Conn wanted to give fair trial to co-conspirator
The fugitive lawyer who orchestrated the biggest Social Security fraud in history said he went on the run to try to give one of the other people in the scam a chance at a fair trial, according to an email sent Monday to The Washington Times.
Eric C. Conn has been on the lam since June 2, when he cut his ankle bracelet just days before he was to testify against a psychologist who helped him fabricate bogus disability applications, in a scam authorities said was worth $550 million in illegal benefits.
A man purporting to be Conn has now been sending emails to several outlets in Kentucky and West Virginia, and also one to The Times, explaining his decision to go on the run, saying that while he doesn’t have any affinity for co-conspirator Bradley Adkins, he didn’t want to be part of putting the psychologist in jail.
“There is a guy fighting for his freedom right now and I think he deserves all that can be provided in his defense,” the email said. “Our local media here in the mountains has a tendency to suppress anything that might make someone they know look bad.”
Conn’s efforts were for naught. Adkins was convicted by a jury in eastern Kentucky on Monday on counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and making false statements. He is to be sentenced Sept. 22.
Adkins is the third person to be found guilty of the scam, following guilty pleas by Conn, the lawyer who arranged the scheme, and former Social Security administrative law judge David B. Daugherty, who admitted to taking bribes to rubberstamp applications.
“Today’s jury verdict holds accountable the final defendant for his role in the largest scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration in its history,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco.
Conn, during his career as a lawyer, dubbed himself “Mr. Social Security” and had a reputation for winning benefits for his clients. His flamboyant adds and his stable of “Conn Hotties” — attractive women he used as advertising — made him a prominent figure in eastern Kentucky.
At some point he hooked up with Daughterty and the two men decided to send bogus applications through the pipeline, with Conn paying Daugherty a fee for each one approved. Conn also maintained a stable of doctors and psychologists — including Adkins — to write fake medical evaluations.
They were caught after whistle-blowers at Social Security reported them.
Conn has been on the run for more than a week. The FBI last week released a wanted poster offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
A man purporting to be Conn emailed the Lexington Herald-Leader in recent days to taunt authorities, whom he suspected of trying to track him through email IP addresses: “Do they really think they can find me with such a blunt method?” he said in one message to that newspaper.
Conn, in his email to The Times, said the government was covering up wrongdoing by the two whistle-blowers who revealed the scam. Conn called them “the two worst employees in the Social Security Administration” and said they’ve been “shielded” by the government.
“The government is in possession of records that provide important details regarding their misconduct,” the man said in the email. “The government has concealed these records from the public to protect these two witnesses so the government could use them against Dr. Adkins.”
The Washington Times has been unable to independently verify that the messages are from Conn. The messages were sent from an anonymous email service with a Russian address, leaving no way to contact him to answer questions from The Times.
But his lawyer said the message sounds like his client, and tracks with other messages sent to local press outlets.
“As I have stated on a previous occasion, a man with nothing more to lose is the only man who has the unrestricted ability to speak the truth,” the person purporting to be Conn said in the email to The Times.
Conn did not provide answers about his escape or his whereabouts to The Times, nor did he detail his decision to plead guilty.
Attorney Eric Conn, an eastern Kentucky disability lawyer, defrauded the government of nearly $600 million through a Social Security scam.