Last week’s stunning news that “Mr. Social Security “ aka Eric Conn had pleaded guilty to fraud was accompanied by an extraordinary 18-page factual basis signed by Conn that on the surface remorsefully disclosed his misdeeds.
Upon closer inspection, the document is nothing but a manipulative effort by Conn, aided and abetted by the federal prosecutors, to rewrite history and throw Conn’s former clients under the bus.
There are concurrently two fierce legal battles being waged in federal court.
The first is the pending indictment against Conn, David Daugherty, a former Social Security judge, and Dr. Bradley Adkins, whom the government alleges all engaged in a conspiracy to submit bogus medical reports so Conn’s former clients could receive Social Security benefits.
Overlooked but also fiercely waged in about a dozen federal courts is a battle to determine whether the 1,500 mass re-determination hearings that the Social Security Administration is putting Conn’s former clients through are fair.
I am proud to be aligned with some of the finest lawyers in the country in our efforts to stop the fallout of these hearings in which about 800 of the 1,500 going through hearings have lost their benefits. The sudden loss of benefits to so many has created an ongoing humanitarian crisis in our poverty-stricken region.
The hearings are reminiscent of the Joe McCarthy era investigations which were known for not allowing the accused to see or challenge crucial evidence against them. Famed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow famously denounced this tactic when he publicly criticized the Air Force for ejecting an officer based on evidence in a sealed manila envelope that neither he nor his attorney could see or challenge.
Make no mistake: Conn got a lenient deal. Under federal sentencing guidelines he was looking at a sentence similar to that of billionaire swindler Bernard Madoff who received 150 years, because federal sentences are linked to the amount of money stolen. Conn will likely get a 12-year sentence because he gave the government something they needed. What they needed was a way to get around federal Judge Amul Thapar’s recent ruling that the McCarthy-style hearings were unconstitutional because of the inability to challenge evidence. The first sentence of the Thapar opinion accurately stated that Conn’s former clients were being afforded less due process rights than Al Qaeda terrorists.
Conn’s factual basis appears to conveniently fill in the gaps to justify the government’s position that it is acceptable to disallow the right of Conn’s former clients to challenge evidence because their former lawyer now admits there was a fraudulent scheme. In other words, both Conn and the government had something to gain by putting together the 18 pages.
The truth is that as Conn finally and mercifully exits this region he took one last gratuitous shot at the vulnerable people he once proudly championed and who he cared so much about in his million dollar advertising campaigns promoting his law practice
The truth is that there continues to be zero evidence that Conn’s former clients had any knowledge of any wrongdoing.
The government in its desperate efforts to justify these unfair hearings has resorted to relying on the credibility of Eric Conn. In my view, if Eric Conn’s lips are moving he is both lying and scheming.
The idea that Conn actually cared about his former clients is laughable. Unfortunately none of this is funny.
Ned Pillersdorf is an attorney in Prestonsburg. He represents former clients of Eric Conn and helped recruit other attorneys to provide pro bono counsel to Conn’s clients in Social Security proceedings.