Lawyer in $550 Million SSA Scam Captured in Honduras

A fugitive lawyer known as “Mr. Social Security” has been captured in Honduras and is now serving a 12 year prison sentence while awaiting trial on numerous other charges after he escaped and left the country.

A massive fraud against the Social Security Administration resulted in the thieves enriching themselves for a number of years at the expense of the federal government.  While the scam ran for a long time, it now appears the good guys are on their way to coming out victorious in this complicated affair.

Running from the Law After Guilty Plea

A Social Security disability lawyer, Eric Christopher Conn, pleaded guilty in federal court 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.

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 submitting 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.

The lawyer at the center of the fraud, Eric Christopher Conn, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for his role in the scam. But, not surprisingly, he disappeared.  Rumors about his whereabouts were numerous. He was somewhere in the world (but apparently not in Pikeville, Kentucky where he practiced law) and, presumably, using some of the money he obtained from scamming the federal government as a way to finance life on the lam. (See more detail in Former SSA Judge Sent to Prison – and Owes $93 Million)

But, despite what may have been his considerable resources, the long arm of the law did catch up with the fugitive lawyer.

He was caught in Honduras. There were a number of law enforcement organizations looking for him and, on December 2nd, he was taken into custody. According to a press release from the Department of Justice:

…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.

Conn, 57 and an alleged accomplice, Curtis Lee Wyatt, have been charged in connection with Conn’s escape in a seven-count indictment returned on September 6, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.  Conn entered pleas of not guilty. Both he and Wyatt are scheduled for trial on February 12, 2018 with regard to numerous allegations regarding his escape and failure to appear in court.

Conn is now serving a 12 year sentence. This sentence was ordered on June 2017 while he was a fugitive and, obviously, failed to show up for his trial.

The Rack-Up of Other Scam Participants

A former Social Security administrative law judge, David Black Daugherty, 81, pleaded guilty in May 2017 to a two-count indictment charging him with receiving illegal gratuities. He was sentenced on August 25, 2017, to four years in prison. A former clinical psychologist also involved in the affair, 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. He was sentenced on September 22, 2017, to 25 years in prison.

The scam involving the various participants went on for a number of years and involved millions of dollars. Ultimately, the perpetrators have been sentenced, fined and will be spending long sentences in prison. No doubt, the final resolution, and the ultimate tally of the cost of this criminal activity, will not be known for some time.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47