A Social Security disability lawyer pleaded guilty in federal court today for his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain $550 million in federal disability payments from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for thousands of claimants.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General’s (SSA-OIG) Philadelphia Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Amy S. Hess of the FBI’s Louisville, Kentucky, Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Tracey D. Montaño of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) Nashville, Tennessee, Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Regional Office made the announcement.
Eric Christopher Conn, 56, of Pikeville, Kentucky, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves of the Eastern District of Kentucky to one count of theft of government money and one count of payment of gratuities. Sentencing is set for July 14, 2017.
According to the plea, from October 2004 to April 6, 2016, Conn participated in a scheme with former SSA administrative law judge David B. Daugherty and multiple doctors that involved the submission of thousands of falsified medical documents to the SSA. As a result of the scheme, Conn and his co-conspirators obligated the SSA to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits to claimants for these fraudulent submissions.
According to the plea, Conn is an attorney whose firm in Floyd County, Kentucky, focused for more than 20 years primarily on representing individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits throughout Kentucky and elsewhere. According to documents filed in connection with the guilty plea, Conn admitted that from December 2004 through April 2011, he paid Daugherty approximately $10,000 a month to award disability benefits to claimants for whom Conn submitted falsified medical documents.
As part of his plea, Conn admitted that he submitted the falsified medical documents, and Daugherty authored decisions granting disability benefits, in well over 1,700 claimants’ cases. Conn admitted that he paid medical professionals to sign medical forms that he fabricated before evaluations of claimants took place. According to the plea, Conn routinely prepared and medical professionals, such as clinical psychologist Alfred Bradley Adkins, signed evaluation reports indicating that claimants had limitations considered disabling by the SSA, irrespective of the claimants’ actual physical or mental conditions. Conn admitted that he received more than $5.7 million in representative fees from the SSA based upon these fraudulent claims.
Conn was indicted last year, along with Daugherty and Adkins. They were charged with conspiracy, fraud, false statements, money laundering and other related offenses in connection with the scheme. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The SSA-OIG, FBI, IRS-CI and HHS-OIG are investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Dustin M. Davis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Elizabeth G. Wright of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case, with previous co-counsel including Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford of the Western District of Missouri and Investigative Counsel Kristen M. Warden of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.