A former Social Security disability lawyer who was apprehended abroad and returned to the United States was arraigned today on charges stemming from his escape from home confinement and his failure to appear for sentencing following his March 2017 guilty plea in a social security disability benefits fraud scheme. He immediately began serving the previously imposed 12-year prison sentence, which was ordered in his absence in July 2017.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Amy S. Hess of the FBI’s Louisville, Kentucky Field Division and Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General’s (SSA-OIG) Philadelphia Field Division made the announcement.
Eric Christopher Conn, 57, of Pikeville, Kentucky, and his alleged accomplice, Curtis Lee Wyatt, were charged in connection with Conn’s escape in a seven-count indictment returned on Sept. 6, 2017, in the Eastern District of Kentucky in Lexington. Conn entered pleas of not guilty. Both he and Wyatt are scheduled to proceed to trial on Feb. 12, 2018.
The indictment charges Conn and Wyatt with one count each of conspiracy to escape and one count each of conspiracy relating to Conn’s failure to appear for his sentencing. Conn is also charged with one count of escape and one count of failing to appear. The indictment alleges that Conn, while on home confinement after pleading guilty to two federal offenses but before being sentenced, escaped from custody by severing an electronic monitoring device from his ankle during a court-approved visit to Lexington on June 2, 2017, and fled to the Mexican border. According to the indictment, Conn ultimately failed to appear for his sentencing hearing on July 14, 2017.
Conn was also charged last year, along with a former Social Security administrative law judge and a former clinical psychologist, in an 18-count indictment charging conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, false statements, money laundering and other related offenses in connection with a $550 million Social Security disability fraud scheme. The indictment alleges that from October 2004 to Feb. 13, 2012, Conn and others conspired to defraud the government by, among other things, submitting false and fraudulent medical documentation to the SSA in order to have the SSA pay claimants’ retroactive disability benefits, continue to pay claimants’ disability benefits in the future, award Medicare and Medicaid benefits to claimants and pay Conn’s attorney fees. According to the indictment, the conspirators intended that the SSA disburse more than $550 million in disability benefits in more than 2,000 cases to claimants in Kentucky and elsewhere, irrespective of the claimants’ actual entitlement to benefits.
The former Social Security administrative law judge named in that indictment, David Black Daugherty, pleaded guilty in May 2017 to a two-count information charging him with receiving illegal gratuities, and was sentenced on Aug. 25, 2017, to four years in prison. The former clinical psychologist, Alfred Bradley Adkins, was found guilty following a six-day trial in June 2017 of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements, and was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2017, to 25 years in prison.
Conn previously pleaded guilty on March 24, 2017, to a two-count information charging him with theft of government money and paying illegal gratuities, and was sentenced in absentia on July 14, 2017, to 12 years in prison on those charges. Although Conn began serving his 12-year sentence, he remains charged under the original indictment.
On Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, Conn was taken into custody without incident in La Ceiba, Honduras with assistance from the Agencia Tecnica de Investigaciones Criminales de Honduras (ATIC) and the FBI’s Legal Attaché in San Salvador. Since Conn’s escape, the FBI has worked diligently with U.S. Probation, the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the SSA-OIG, the Kentucky State Police, Lexington Police, Pikeville Police, University of Kentucky Police, and the Luna County (New Mexico) Sheriff’s Office to locate and apprehend him. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance to the investigation of Conn’s escape.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI and SSA-OIG investigated the case. Trial Attorney Dustin M. Davis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Elizabeth G. Wright of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case.