LEXINGTON, Kentucky — A disability lawyer who went on the lam after being convicted of stealing over half a billion dollars in the biggest Social Security scam in history has been sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay back $170 million.
Authorities say Eric Conn, who was held under home detention in Kentucky after his conviction in March, in snipped off his electronic monitoring anklet on June 2 and went on the run.
The FBI says it has tracked Conn to New Mexico where he has been spotted buying gas and shopping at Walmart. They say Conn fled using a truck owned by a friend who had registered it to a dummy corporation in Montana.
The truck has been recovered in New Mexico near the Mexico border, although officials say they have no evidence Conn had fled into Mexico.
“The negative impact of Conn’s presence in our community will be felt for generations,” said FBI agent Amy Hess. “His flight from prosecution has diminished any legitimacy and integrity he once held as an attorney and officer of the court.”
Conn, 56, was a well known figure in Kentucky with ads appearing on TV nonstop and ambulance chasing billboards dotting the landscape. He earned millions by representing thousands of clients pressing for disability claims from Social Security. But it was all a fraud, prosecutors said. In all, they say he defrauded the government out of $550 million.
Conn admitted he had routinely presented false evidence of disabilities, paid unscrupulous doctors to rubber stamp forms and even bribed a Social Security judge who approved thousands of claims for Conn’s clients in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A second judge has admitted retaliating against a whistleblower who tried to blow the lid off Conn’s sleazy dealings with the judge. Both judges are awaiting sentencing.
At his sentencing, Judge Danny Reeves gave Conn the maximum jail term allowed by law, but acknowledged that 12 years didn’t fit the crime.
“It did hurt the entire system and the reverberations are still occurring,” Reeves said, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.