People make compromises all the time. For instance, one spouse may put their career aspirations on hold and stay home to raise the kids. Perhaps sacrificing a short commute for a home in the country would make for a more peaceful existence. Or, someone might be willing to be paid less if they were given a more prestigious title. Today’s fraudster made a very serious compromise that led him to commit Social Security Disability fraud. The Pikesville, Kentucky psychologist compromised his medical judgement for money.
In today’s “Fraud of the Day,” the story focuses on a psychologist who was part of the largest Social Security Disability fraud in U.S. history. He made the mistake of associating with one of the most prolific disability lawyers in the nation, Eric Conn. (His last name should have been enough of a warning.) Conn represented thousands of Eastern Kentucky residents in successful claims for federal disability benefits. He pleaded guilty to stealing from the government and to bribing a Social Security judge. (Now that’s what I call brazen.)
Conn spearheaded the disability scam, admitting that he falsely documented his clients’ physical or mental disability claims and paid doctors to sign off on the forms with little review. He also illegally paid the Social Security judge more than $600,000 to approve the claims. (The judge awarded benefits to more than 3,100 people.)
The psychologist was one of the doctors who signed off on falsified client forms provided by Conn or his employees. (The doctor was paid $350 per signed assessment.) Court documents show that at certain times, the doctor would change his assessments at the lawyer’s request to make clients seem more impaired than they actually were. This illegal process went on for more than four years with the doctor signing off on nearly 250 of the bogus client forms without reviewing them. (He purportedly signed off on some of the client forms on the hood of a car in a parking lot while the lawyer’s employee waited.)
During the psychologist’s trial, he claimed he didn’t do anything wrong. (Sounds like someone is in denial.) Even though his family and friends vouched that he was a compassionate psychologist who helped many people with mental and emotional problems and his lawyer explained that he was naïve, the jury and judge didn’t buy it. The jury ultimately convicted him of conspiracy, mail fraud and making false statements on the disability claims. While in court, the doctor was reminded that he lied at the lawyer’s trial. (Not a very smart thing to do.)
The 46-year-old psychologist was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his part in the scam. He was also ordered to pay $93 million in restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and forfeit $187,600 in tainted fees. (Because he did not strike a plea deal, he received a longer sentence than the mastermind of the scheme and the judge.)
The lawyer, who pleaded guilty to stealing from the government and to bribing a Social Security judge, was on home detention awaiting sentencing when he disappeared. (The FBI has a $20,000 reward for information on the whereabouts of the fugitive lawyer.) The lawyer was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison, while the judge received a four-year prison sentence. The lawyer has also been ordered to repay $106 million to the SSA and other agencies. He must also pay $5.7 million to the government based on his fraudulent fees and a $50,000 fine.
Fortunately, the SSA severed payment to hundreds of the lawyer’s former clients once the fraud scheme was discovered. But, the agency did pay tens of millions of dollars before the funds were cut off. (I guess the moral of the story here is to be careful who you associate with, especially if their last name is Conn, and never compromise your values.)
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “The cost of helping Eric Conn in a massive disability fraud? 25 years in prison.” published by Lexington Herald Leader on September 22, 2017.
A Pikeville psychologist convicted of taking part in the largest Social Security disability fraud in U.S. history should serve 25 years in prison, a judge ruled Friday.
Alfred Bradley Adkins also was ordered to pay $93 million in restitution to the Social Security Administration and other agencies and to forfeit $187,600 in tainted fees.