Authorities believe fugitive lawyer Eric C. Conn is still in the country after escaping court-ordered supervision Friday evening and are offering a $20,000 reward for information that helps catch him.
Police want to find Conn quickly before he has a chance to leave the U.S.
“We need him to face justice for defrauding the U.S. taxpayer,” Amy Hess, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky, said at a news conference in Louisville on Wednesday.
Conn pleaded guilty in March to submitting false information on requests for his clients to receive federal disability payments, and to bribing a Social Security Administration judge to approve payments for thousands of Conn’s clients.
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Conn made millions from the scheme, and paid the judge, David B. Daughterty, more than $600,000 from 2004 to 2011, according to court records.
Conn was out of jail on bond pending his sentencing in July, with the condition he post a large bond, be under house arrest and wear an electronic monitoring device — an ankle bracelet — to track his whereabouts.
As part of Conn’s plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend allowing him to remain free pending sentencing. U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves approved the request, continuing conditions imposed earlier by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier.
But after spending much of the day in Lexington on Friday preparing to possibly testify against a third man charged in the case, Conn cut off the ankle bracelet and disappeared Friday evening, according to the FBI.
Hess declined to discuss some details of the investigation, but said the bracelet was found thrown out along Interstate 75 in Lexington. She could not provide the exact location.
Cutting the bracelet prompted an alert. The U.S. Probation Office, which had Conn under supervision, notified the FBI.
Hess said the FBI was notified “very quickly.” Wier issued an arrest warrant for him on Saturday for violating his bond conditions.
Hess said authorities have information that suggests Conn is still in the country, but they’re not sure how much longer he will remain.
That’s one reason the FBI announced the reward Wednesday for information that leads to his arrest. An international manhunt is far more complicated.
Hess said she had no information that someone helped Conn escape, but the FBI is not ruling out that possibility.
The FBI has received some tips about Conn and is pursuing several leads, Hess said.
The agency has put information about him in a national crime database that police agencies across the country use. The FBI is taking the lead in looking for him, but other agencies also are involved.
Hess said catching Conn is a priority and she has shifted agents from other work to help with the case.
Asked if Conn should be considered armed and dangerous, Hess cautioned people against approaching him.
“Clearly he has made an act of desperation,” she said. “Desperate people do desperate things.”
Conn could be charged with escape.
Hess asked that anyone with information about Conn’s whereabouts call the FBI at 502-263-6000, or call local police.
Before he disappeared, Conn would likely have been a witness in a trial that started this week for Bradley Adkins, a Pikeville psychologist charged with helping Conn defraud the Social Security Administration by signing off on false mental-impairment evaluations.
Adkins has denied wrongdoing.
Conn was once one of the top-earning Social Security disability lawyers in the country. He gave up his law license after pleading guilty.