Criminal Justice

Lawyer pleads guilty in $550M disability fraud scheme, admits bribing administrative law judge

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A Kentucky lawyer who once called himself “Mr. Social Security” has pleaded guilty to allegations that he submitted false medical documents and bribed an administrative law judge to approve claims, obligating the government to pay more than $550 million in lifetime disability payments.

The lawyer, 56-year-old Eric C. Conn of Pikeville, pleaded guilty on Friday, report the Associated Press, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. A press release from the Department of Justice is here.

Conn acknowledged that he submitted false documents in more than 1,700 cases, and that he paid the judge about $10,000 per month for about six years beginning in late 2004. Conn admitted that he received more than $5.7 million in fees for representing claimants in the cases, an amount that he promised to repay to the government. He also agreed to pay $46.5 million in restitution to the Social Security Administration, the actual amount of money paid so far as a result of the fraud.

Conn will sell his home, his office complex and a 19-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln outside his office to help repay the government. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to save the Lincoln statue, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Charges are pending against the administrative law judge and a psychologist accused of falsifying mental impairment evaluations.

The Social Security Administration decided to have redetermination hearings for about 1,500 of Conn’s former clients and has allowed about 700 to keep their benefits, lawyer Ned Pillersdorf told the Herald-Leader. Pillersdorf has sued Conn on behalf of former clients in a class action suit.

Sentencing in Conn’s case is set for July 14. He could receive up to 12 years in prison.

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