“Mr. Social Security” cons the government in a scheme involving submitting false medical documents and bribing a judge to approve the claims.
“Mr. Social Security”, 56-year-old Eric C. Conn of Pikeville, Kentucky, cons the government, pleading guilty to claims that he turned in false medical documents and bribed an administrative judge to approve the claims. His actions ultimately made the government liable for paying more than $600 million in lifetime disability payments. Conn was indicted last April on over a dozen charges, including mail and wire fraud, conspiring to retaliate against a witness, destroying evidence and money laundering.
In his guilty plea, Conn admitted to submitting the falsified documents for nearly 2,000 disability cases. He pleaded guilty to one count of stealing from the Social Security Administration and one count of paying illegal gratuities to a federal judge. The initial charges will be dismissed as part of his plea arrangement. Conn also indicated he paid the judge $10,000 per month for a total of six years to approve the claims, beginning back in 2004. “I submitted or allowed the submission of medical records that I knew to be fraudulent in nature,” Conn said when U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves asked him to describe his scheme.
Conn pocketed more than $5.7 million for representing claimants in these cases, which he has now promised to repay to the government. He will also be obligated for paying $46.5 million in restitution to the Social Security Administration. This is the actual dollar amount of funds that have so far been released as a result of his fraudulent scheme.
In order to pay on his debts, Conn will be forced to sell his home, his office and a statue of late president Abraham Lincoln that sits outside of his office complex consisting of five connected mobile homes. This has become a historical fixture on the property and a GoFundMe campaign has been started to save the statue. Conn himself was a celebrity of sorts in his heyday. During his tenure, he hired bluegrass music legend Ralph Stanley to appear in a music video for him and Miss Kentucky USA as his public relations director with a hefty salary of $70,000 annually. Conn actively promoted himself on television and on billboards throughout Eastern Kentucky.
The administrative judge, David B. Daugherty, who approved Conn’s con will not get off scot-free. Daugherty, along with Pikeville psychologist Alfred Bradley Adkins, who is accused of aiding Conn in his cons, illegally modifying mental impairment evaluations, have pending charges against them. Conn’s former clients will not all lose their benefits either. The Social Security Administration has decided to hold hearings for 1,500 of them, and has so far allowed approximately 700 to keep their benefits. A class action suit has been started on behalf of all former clients.
Conn’s sentencing for his cons is set for July 14 and the man could receive up to twelve years in prison, though his sentence will likely be lower under advisory federal guidelines. Reeves is allowing Conn to stay out of jail pending sentencing, but has decided to continue an earlier order set in the case of home detention.