FBI: Friends likely help­ing fugi­tive lawyer

Man be­hind fraud case on the lam since June 2

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

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.

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