Eric C. Conn, Social Security con man, pleads guilty to jumping bail
The lawyer who orchestrated the largest disability fraud in Social Security history pleaded guilty Monday to retaliating against a whistleblower who exposed the scam, and also for jumping bail last year to try to avoid being sentenced for the fraud.
Eric C. Conn, who dubbed himself “Mr. Social Security,” helped thousands of people in rural Kentucky and West Virginia win disability benefits though for many of them he was submitting bogus applications with fraudulent medical or psychological evidence, and had paid off Social Security judges to rubber-stamp them.
He agreed last year to plead guilty and was set to testify against one of his co-conspirators, but just ahead of that testimony he cut off his ankle bracelet, jumped bail and fled to Central America.
He was recaptured at a Pizza Hut in Honduras in December and, now back in custody in the U.S., has been ratting out others involved in the scheme.
“Eric Conn preyed upon the sick and vulnerable for his personal gain,” said Amy Hess, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Louisville office. “Rather than face the consequences of his crimes, he chose to flee and attempted to hide from those he had betrayed. Today’s plea will ensure he is now held accountable.”
The government on Monday said the scam totaled $550 million in lifetime benefits obligated to be paid out on fraudulent applications. But in other documents the government put the scam as high as $600 billion for an initial batch of about 1,800 applications, and the government has since identified about 2,000 more disability cases it questioned, suggesting the actual potential fraud is well more than $1 billion.
Conn was already sentenced to 12 years in prison for the original scam. The new charges he pleaded guilty to on Monday stem from his escape, and from retaliating against Sarah Carver, who along with Jennifer Griffith blew the whistle on the fraud earlier this decade.
Conn set his henchman, Curtis Lee Wyatt, to stalk Ms. Carver and try to catch her violating her telework agreement, hoping to discredit her as a whistleblower. They were unable to find any evidence.
Wyatt also helped Conn with his escape, including testing the best places to cross the border from the U.S. into Mexico and arranging the Faraday bag device that helped Conn cut off his ankle bracelet and jump bond last year.
Wyatt will be sentenced later this month for his crime, while Conn faces sentencing in September.
The Washington Times reported last week that the government will ask for a 15-year sentence on the new charges against Conn, in addition to the 12 years he already got for the original scam. The terms are to run consecutively, according to a notification of the plea deal the government made to Ms. Carver.
Several others from the conspiracy are already serving prison sentences.