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Psychologist in Eric Conn’s disability scheme loses an appeal. He’s in prison until 2039.

Dr. Alfred Bradley Adkins, right, exited  the Federal Courthouse in Lexington after a hearing on April 5, 2016.
Dr. Alfred Bradley Adkins, right, exited the Federal Courthouse in Lexington after a hearing on April 5, 2016. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

A federal appeals panel has upheld the conviction of a Pikeville psychologist who was charged alongside disbarred attorney Eric C. Conn in a massive disability-fraud case.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling against Alfred Bradley Adkins on Tuesday.

Adkins, 47, is serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and making false statements.

Conn for years was one of the top federal disability attorneys in the country, securing Social Security benefits for thousands of people in Eastern Kentucky and elsewhere.

However, Conn admitted last year that he included made-up evidence in the mental and physical disability evaluations he submitted for people, and bribed David Daugherty, a Social Security administrative judge, to rule for his clients.

Doctors allegedly signed evaluations for Conn without doing real evaluations, in return for cash.

From 2007 to mid-2011, Conn or employees in his firm filled out forms attesting to people’s mental impairments and Adkins signed nearly 250 of them without changing or even reviewing them, according to one motion by a prosecutor.

Adkins signed some of the forms on the hood of a car while Conn’s employees waited, prosecutor Dustin Davis said in court.

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Conn paid Adkins $325 to $350 for each evaluation, according to a court record.

Adkins claimed he thought Conn would only use the forms internally and did not know they would be submitted to Social Security, but a jury rejected his defense.

Adkins argued in his appeal that U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves improperly allowed testimony about the amount of money Social Security could have lost because of Conn’s scheme, which served to “inflame”the jury.

A Social Security official testified that if Conn’s clients had gotten all the potential payments without his fraud coming to light, it would have cost Social Security about $600 million.

The government didn’t pay out all that money, but the actual loss from Conn’s scheme was $46.7 million, according to a court record.

There has not been a finding that Conn’s clients were aware of the fraud.

Adkins also argued in his appeal that Reeves erred in letting jurors hear some testimony from an ex-employee of Conn’s, and that the 25-year sentence Reeves imposed was unreasonable.

However, a three-judge appeals panel said Reeves did not err in his rulings.

Reeves initially sentenced Conn to 12 years and Daugherty to four.

Those were the maximum sentences under the deals Conn and Daugherty made with the government to plead guilty.

The potential sentence for Adkins was much longer because he went to trial instead of pleading guilty.

Defendants in federal court get credit on their potential sentences for acknowledging guilt, and plea deals also usually reduce the number of charges at issue.

Reeves also said that Adkins lied to the jury. That pushed up his sentence calculation.

However, the appeals panel noted that Adkins’ sentence was still less than half what he could have gotten under advisory guidelines.

Conn, 58, has since pleaded guilty on additional charges. His plea deal calls for an additional 15 years in prison, for a total of 27.

He is to be sentenced next month.

Daugherty, 82, is serving his sentence at the federal medical prison in Lexington. His release date is in February 2020.

Adkins is in a federal prison in West Virginia. His current release date is calculated as April 26, 2039.

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