FBI update on Eric Conn escape
The FBI found and seized four additional bank accounts controlled by fugitive lawyer Eric C. Conn to help satisfy a $5.7 million judgment under his fraud plea, according to court documents.
The four accounts held a total of $103,734, according to a motion filed by federal prosecutor Elizabeth G. Wright.
Conn agreed to pay the government $5.7 million as part of his guilty plea in what federal officials have called the largest Social Security fraud in the history of the program.
Conn represented thousands of people in Eastern Kentucky in successful claims for disability payments, but admitted in March that he submitted false medical evidence in claims and bribed a Social Security judge who approved the payments.
The $5.7 million is what Conn acknowledged receiving from Social Security through illegal means as part of the plea.
Wright said the government initially knew of only two assets Conn could use to pay the judgment — his 10,000-square-foot house in Pikeville and his office complex at Stanville in Floyd County, which consisted of several connected mobile homes.
There also is a 19-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln at the office that Conn said cost him $500,000. The government can sell that as well.
The government initially knew of only two assets Conn could use to pay the $5.7 million judgment pending against him.
Conn’s plea deal called for him to pay the government $150,000 from the sale of the house, with the rest applied to other obligations. Conn bought the house for $1.5 million and sold it for half that, according to public records.
The office property is valued at $659,100, according to an affidavit from Randolph Copley, an FBI special agent in Pikeville.
That meant the government could expect to receive at most $809,100 from the sale of the house and office, Wright said.
However, Copley found the four bank accounts through further investigation.
One was in West Virginia. A former employee of Conn’s, Curtis Lee Wyatt, said that was because no bank in Pikeville would open a new account in Conn’s name at that point, Copley said.
That account was in the name of Curtis Lee Wyatt - Disability Services, but used Conn’s office address and money went into it from Conn’s other accounts, Copley said.
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves authorized the government to take the money in that account and the three others.
Wright first filed the request to seize the accounts under seal, saying there was a concern that if Conn learned the government knew about the accounts, he would quickly take steps to hide, spend or transfer the funds out of reach.
Conn was under house arrest pending sentencing on July 14, but cut the electronic monitoring device from his ankle June 2 and disappeared.
A man claiming to be Conn has said in emails to the Herald-Leader that he fled the U.S. using a fake passport and is in a country that does not have an agreement to extradite fugitives.
However, the emails indicate Conn has kept up with media accounts of his case. He said in one he had watched the video of an FBI news conference posted on a media site.
Federal prosecutor Elizabeth G. Wright indicated that the four accounts were seized before details became public, to avoid alerting “the Defendant’s confederates and individuals assisting him to the government’s inquiries.”
Conn also has been in contact with his attorney, Scott White, by email.
Wright’s motion also raised the notion that Conn has had help while dodging capture by federal authorities.
The motion said that allowing public access to the request to confiscate Conn’s newly discovered accounts, before the seizure, “would also be expected to alert the Defendant’s confederates and individuals assisting him to the government’s inquiries and encourage efforts to conceal or dissipate other assets belonging to the Defendant and potentially to destroy and tamper with additional evidence that could be relevant in an ongoing investigation, as well.”
The person claiming to be Conn — who was able to provide personal information about Conn, including his Social Security number — told the Herald-Leader he did not ask for help absconding from anyone who would be left behind to potentially get in trouble.
He said he did get help “from an individual or individuals who were effectively immune from the government’s persecution.”
Reeves unsealed Wright’s motion Thursday after she confirmed the government had taken the money in Conn’s accounts.
Witnesses have said Conn transferred significant sums of money outside the country at times before he was indicted in April 2016.
The man purporting to be Conn told the newspaper that money was gone by the time he decided to flee, however, and that financial limits imposed after he was charged kept him from acquiring any significant amount of money.
Copley said in his affidavit that based on limited information he has gotten so far, there were seven international wire transfers from the account that was in Wyatt’s name — totaling $33,686 — as well as cash withdrawals totaling $15,900 between Feb. 22 and April 13.
That was while Conn was on house arrest but before he fled.
Copley said it appeared the account had been used for expenses “seemingly associated” with Conn, rather than business expenses.
The only specific example he provided was a $9,000 check dated Jan. 31, payable to Johanna Delgado-Cruz. That was a former girlfriend of Conn’s, Copley said.
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to Conn’s capture.