FBI: Friends likely helping fugitive lawyer
Man behind fraud case on the lam since June 2
The fugitive lawyer who led the largest Social Security fraud ring in history is still in the country and is likely being aided by family and friends who are helping him lay low, the FBI said in its latest update of the bizarre case.
Eric C. Conn, who pleaded guilty in March to his part in the $550 million fraud, cut his ankle bracelet and disappeared in Kentucky on June 2, just days before he was slated to testify against one of his co-conspirators.
A person claiming to be Conn has since sent letters to The Washington Times and several local news outlets in Kentucky and West Virginia, describing his escape and his reasons for going on the lam, and chiding authorities for trying to sniff out his location.
The FBI on Thursday searched Conn’s old law office in Kentucky, his mother’s home and his car looking for evidence to help track him down, and Amy Hess, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Louisville office, said she expects to name those who are helping Conn this week.
“Charges against additional co-conspirators including family members and associates of Eric Conn will likely follow,” she said.
Agent Hess said it’s possible Conn’s plea agreement, which envisions him serving 12 years in prison, could be changed now that he’s gone on the run.
The FBI has convened a grand jury to help pursue the case, according to local news reports.
In emails to The Times, the person claiming to be Conn described a method he used to shield his ankle bracelet GPS tracking device in order to cut it off. The device was found in a backpack alongside an interstate.
Conn, under the terms of his release, was supposed to wear the device and be confined to his home, save for pre-approved trips.
The emails to The Times said Conn fled because he didn’t want to be involved in testifying against Alfred Adkins, a psychologist who was convicted last week for his role in the fraud case. The emails to The Times came from an anonymous email service with a Russian address. One email suggested ways for a reporter to verify Conn’s identity, though those efforts fell short.
Emails and faxes to other news outlets and to a local lawyer lay out demands Conn made for his surrender, including asking that the FBI say he’s not a danger. The emails to The Times did not get into those demands, nor did the person claiming to be Conn say anything more about the case against him.
Conn pleaded guilty to being part of an operation that saw him fabricate Social Security disability applications for at least 1,700 people in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.
He had a stable of doctors and psychologists prepared to write false medical and mental evaluations to back up the disability claim, then submitted the applications to a Social Security administrative law judge who was also on his payroll, and who would rubber-stamp the applications.
Social Security has estimated the value of his fraud at $550 million in bogus lifetime benefits that would have been paid out.
Agent Hess said the FBI has been talking with Conn’s attorney to try to get him to surrender.
Conn was slated for sentencing in July.