A Pikeville psychologist received about $200,000 in payments while taking part with attorney Eric C. Conn in a massive Social Security disability fraud scheme in Eastern Kentucky, a prosecutor said Monday.
Alfred Bradley Adkins signed forms describing mental impairments of Conn’s clients, but many of the forms had been filled out by Conn or employees in his Floyd County law office, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright told jurors as Adkins’ trial started Monday in federal court in Lexington. Conn, who already has pleaded guilty, could have been called as a witness in the trial but absconded over the weekend.
Adkins rubber-stamped the mental evaluations without reviewing them in order to further the scheme that made Conn millions, Wright said.
“We are here because the defendant and others agreed to cut corners,” Wright told jurors.
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However, Adkins’ attorney, Jonah Lee Stevens, told jurors that Conn duped Adkins and that he was not part of the conspiracy.
Adkins was charged with Conn and David B. Daugherty, an administrative law judge who heard appeals in Social Security disability cases from Eastern Kentucky.
Conn admitted that between 2004 and 2011, he submitted claims seeking disability payments for clients that contained false information. Daugherty also pleaded guilty, saying he took more than $600,000 in payments from Conn to approve claims for his clients.
Adkins, a licensed clinical psychologist, had a vital role in the scheme because he signed forms describing mental conditions that impaired people’s ability to work, Wright said during opening arguments Monday.
When Conn first hired him, Adkins wrote evaluations and filled out documents, called residual functional capacity forms, to be submitted with disability claims, Wright said.
Around 2007, however, Adkins just started signing residual functional capacity forms that Conn and staff members completed and gave him, Wright said.
Conn had five versions of the form, stored in stacks in the copy room at his firm, and staff members allegedly picked them out randomly and filled them out.
The conditions noted on the forms didn’t even match the disabilities people had in some cases, but Adkins signed the false forms without reviewing them, Wright said.
Wright cited several cases in which Adkins signed forms on children that listed adult conditions, such as poor ability to deal with work-related stress.
In one case, Adkins said a 3-year-old boy would be able to manage his money if he was awarded disability benefits, Wright said.
Adkins signed more than 200 residual functional capacity forms for Conn clients between 2007 and 2011, Wright said.
“Eric Conn, the defendant, Judge Daugherty, they were making money,” Wright told jurors.
Several of Conn’s former employees are scheduled to testify.
Stevens painted a different picture, saying Conn and Daugherty took part in the scam, but not Adkins.
Adkins has cooperated with investigators on the case for years and testified openly to grand juries and the U.S. Senate, Stevens said.
Stevens said Adkins ultimately discovered that many of the residual functional capacity forms did not have his correct signature and some did not include evaluations he did.
“His mistake was he trusted the law firm of attorney Eric C. Conn,” Stevens told jurors. “He was taken advantage of.”
Conn burned 2.5 million pages of documents in a burn pit at his Floyd County office and smashed computers after learning he was under investigation, but Adkins did not destroy any evidence, Stevens said.
And while Daugherty bought a boat and a beach house with payoffs from Conn, Adkins only received his standard rate for doing the evaluations, Stevens said.