Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: February 8, 2024 2:17am CST
Following the release of the Apple TV+ docuseries “The Big Conn,” more people are aware of Eric C. Conn and his goofy self-promotional marketing tactics than ever before.
Known as “Mr. Social Security,” Conn, a former attorney, is now infamous for orchestrating the largest Social Security fraud scheme in the history of the United States.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that the scheme, which amounted to over $550 million in fraudulent Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, involved the collusion of doctors and a judge knowingly approving false disability claims.
Brief Summary of the Eric C. Conn Fraud Scheme:
Eric C. Conn, a former Social Security disability lawyer based in Kentucky, built his law practice around securing disability benefits for his clients.
However, starting in October 2004, he began employing unethical and illegal methods.
The core of Conn’s fraudulent activities revolved around paying medical professionals to provide falsified medical records and paying a Social Security Administrative Law Judge to approve the disability claims based on these fraudulent records, providing Conn’s clients with lifetime SSDI benefit payments.
Who Is Eric C. Conn?
Disbarred attorney Eric C. Conn is a convicted felon and best known for his role in running the largest Social Security fraud scheme in the history of the United States.
Born on September 29, 1960, in Pikeville, Kentucky, Eric Christopher Conn was raised in a family with a deep-rooted tradition of practicing law as a career in the coal mining region of eastern Kentucky.
He stood out academically in Betsy Layne High School and later attended the University of Kentucky, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1982.
Conn earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Akron School of Law in 1987. He also served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War before leaving with the rank of Captain.
Social Security Disability Lawyer Career
On September 9, 1993, Conn opened his law practice in Stanville, Kentucky, in a mobile home next to his mother Pat’s house, building it into one of the nation’s most lucrative disability firms.
His flamboyant personality, combined with aggressive marketing tactics, quickly catapulted him into the limelight.
“Mr. Social Security”
Conn’s marketing strategies included billboards, radio, and television ads, often leveraging his self-proclaimed nickname, “Mr. Social Security.”
Fast Fact: SSDI lawyers specialize in assisting individuals who can no longer work due to injuries and are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
They guide clients through the complex application process, help gather necessary medical evidence, and represent them in appeals if their claim is denied (most initial claims get denied).
Their professional expertise includes understanding the nuances of SSDI eligibility requirements and effectively arguing a case in front of an administrative law judge to secure benefits for their clients.
SSDI attorneys are hired on a contingency fee basis and receive 25% of their client’s backpay or a flat $6,000 (whichever is less) upon a favorable claim.
Eric C. Conn proved this fee structure done in volume can be very lucrative, as he became a very rich lawyer in America.
During the 1990s and 2000s, Conn emerged as one of the top disability lawyers in the country.
He managed a lucrative law firm in Stanville, Kentucky, serving clients from across the nation, affording Conn a very extravagant lifestyle (i.e., Conn went on a vacation once a month for at least a week and was married more than a dozen times.)
In 2012, the Eric C. Conn Law Firm opened a West Coast location in Beverly Hills, California.
Eric C. Conn Lawyer Marketing Tactics:
Eric C. Conn likes being the center of attention, which is very apparent from his marketing strategies. A common theme that comes across in the ads is that they’re all about him, with themes around his admitted wannabe James Bond 007 spy persona.
Produced Obama Girl Campaign Music Video
In 2009, Conn paid about $50,000 to produce a music video that starred the internet sensation at the time, Obama Girl, Jesco White, and Ralph Stanley (Conn made a cameo).
Conn made the music video because he wanted President Obama to appoint him to the Social Security Advisory Board. That goal did not pan out, as Conn was never appointed to the position by President Obama.
An interview of Conn discussing his decision to hire “Obama Girl” for a music video is viewable on the Courier Journal’s YouTube channel.
3D Lawyer TV Commercial
In 2010, Eric C. Conn created and ran what he called the first lawyer 3D commercial, which included instructions for making 3D glasses so viewers at home could make their own pair to view the TV ad.
Conn uploaded the 3D lawyer commercial to YouTube, which is embedded below for your convenience.
The self-promoting press release from the firm announcing the video ends with the following statements:
3D is very much in line with the Eric C. Conn Law Firm’s viewpoint for modernization in technology. The Eric C. Conn Law Firm believes that going to 3D is like a move from black and white to color.
Built the Largest Replica of the Lincoln Memorial In the World For Stanville, KY Office
In 2010, the Eric C. Conn Law Firm presented a replica of the Lincoln Memorial that he had commissioned. He marketed it as the second-biggest Lincoln statue in the world (sounds more original than a smaller replica of the Lincoln Memorial).
Conn reported the cost to create the Lincoln Memorial to be more than $500,000, which was about ten times the original estimate for the project in an interview with the Courier-Journal, in which he discussed his marketing.
Conn’s love of statues also led him to put a replica Statue of Liberty at his Stanville Law Complex, which overlooked the lush greenery of the Appalachian mountains.
Filmed “I’ve Got a Question” Commercial In Response To Rumors About Federal Investigation
The 60 second TV ad ends with Conn exiting his Rolls Royce sedan, flipping his jacket over his right shoulder, and saying, “I’ve never left.” The scene which was filmed at night exudes his thinking of himself as being like James Bond.
We embedded the Eric C. Conn – I’ve Got a Question commercial from the Vantage Point Ads YouTube channel for your watching convenience below:
Conn Hired Musician Who Wrote a Parody Rap Mocking Him To Write Theme Song
The following are some of the original lyrics written for a school assignment by Brandon Scott Coleman, a Pike County high school student at the time:
If you need a lawyer, he is gonna show ya how it’s done. Dun, dun, dun.
For a crunk attorney, just take a short journey to the offices of Eric C. Conn. He knows every statute, and he’s got a sweet statue…
Eric is my daddy. He’s the man with a plan. He ain’t gonna stop ’til he gets that check in my hand!…
Once you get your SSI, you won’t be po’ anymore. Whoo! Eric C. Conn is my daddy. Yeah!…
He’s the SSI Master. He’s the master of disaster.
The original Eric C. Conn rap is available to listen for free on YouTube.
Infamous Social Security Fraud Scheme
Conn’s fraudulent scheme, executed from October 2004 to 2016, relied on submitting thousands of falsified medical documents to the Social Security Administration.
These documents, prepared by corrupt doctors referred to as “whore doctors” by Conn, were used to support his clients’ disability claims, often without any actual examination of the clients.
The fraudulent submissions received unquestioned approval from corrupt Social Security Administrative Law Judge David B. Daugherty, based in Huntington, West Virginia.
Daugherty, who pleaded guilty to accepting $609,000 in bribes from Conn, approved unmerited disability claims, allowing Conn to amass millions of dollars in fees from his clients and the Social Security Administration.
In many ways, Eric Conn’s SSDI fraud scheme would not have been possible if not for the help of Judge David B. Daugherty.
Exposure, Investigation, and Conviction Timeline
Conn’s massive fraud scheme was exposed in 2011 by a Wall Street Journal article written by investigative reporter Damian Paletta.
This revelation led to an investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, culminating in a 2013 report detailing Conn’s fraudulent activities and prompting the filing of criminal charges against him.
What Was Eric C. Conn Charged With?
On March 24, 2017, Eric C. Conn entered pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government money and one count of payment of gratuities.
He was placed under house arrest pending his sentencing, but on June 2, 2017, Conn severed his electronic monitoring device and became a fugitive, fleeing the country to escape prosecution.
On December 2, 2017 (after exactly six months on the run), Conn was captured by U.S. Marshalls while eating in a La Ceiba, Honduras Pizza Hut and extradited to the United States.
Federal authorities identified Conn’s whereabouts in Honduras by locating the IP address of the Pizza Hut Wifi he used to send emails to reporters.
On September 7, 2018, Conn was sentenced to 27 years in prison for his role in the fraud scheme, which could have been much less if he had not fled the country and upheld his part of the plea deal, which involved his testifying against other defendants.
The US District judge also ordered Conn to pay the government $72 million in restitution for the fraud.
Where Is Eric C. Conn Now?
Eric C. Conn is serving his sentence at FCI Fort Dix, New Jersey, approximately 40 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His scheduled release date is November 2039.
Key Players and Their Sentences In Conn’s SSA Fraud Scheme
In the following sections, we discuss details about the key participants in Eric C. Conn’s fraud scheme, including their crimes and prison sentences.
David Black Daugherty
David B. Daugherty was a Federal Administrative Law Judge at the Office of Hearings and Appeals of the Social Security Administration in Huntington, West Virginia, from 1990 until his retirement in July 2011.
He played a crucial role in Conn’s fraud scheme by accepting bribes from Conn and approving thousands of unmerited disability claims.
Daugherty’s Guilty Plea and Sentencing Details:
Daugherty pleaded guilty to two counts of accepting illegal gratuities.
His involvement in the scheme was crucial, as he knowingly approved disability benefits based on fraudulent medical documents provided by Conn, affecting well over 1,700 claimants’ cases. During the scheme, he approved nearly 100% of all the claims he heard.
Evidence from the associated criminal trial brought against Alfred Bradley Adkins shows that starting in 2004, Daugherty sought to be the judge to hear the disability claims brought by claimants represented by lawyer Eric C. Conn.
He even regularly took the initiative to transfer Conn’s cases from another jurisdiction to be under his own.
David B. Daugherty was sentenced to four years in prison on August 25, 2017, and was ordered to pay $93 million as restitution.
What Happened To Judge Daugherty?
Former Judge David B. Daugherty died on October 19, 2019, at the age of 83, while still serving his federal sentence at a Lexington, Kentucky-area hospital.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Daughtery was incarcerated at the FMC Lexington, an administrative security federal medical center. Its prison population consists of male and female inmates needing medical care.
Alfred Bradley Adkins
Clinical Psychologist Alfred Bradley Adkins from Pikesville, Kentucky, was another key player in Conn’s fraudulent scheme. He accepted close to $200,000 in bribes from Conn in exchange for signing fraudulent medical forms.
Conn solicited Adkins to sign the medical evaluation forms that Conn had previously prepared when medical documentation forms were needed for his clients’ SSDI claims.
Adkins would sign the forms without first reviewing them.
Once signed, Conn would forward the forms to the SSA, primarily to Judge Daugherty, as evidence to support disability determinations.
Adkin’s Conviction and Sentencing:
Adkins was found guilty of the following offenses after a six-day trial in June 2017:
- Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud
- One count of mail fraud
- One count of wire fraud
- One count of making false statements (federal felony)
On September 22, 2017, Adkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $93 million in restitution to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Adkins remains in custody at FCI Ashland (a low-security federal correctional facility), just outside of Ashland, Kentucky.
Charlie Paul Andrus
Former Social Security Chief Administrative Law Judge Charlie Paul Andrus also conspired with Conn.
Andrus was involved in efforts to discredit a former SSA employee who had discovered and provided information about Conn’s fraudulent scheme to federal agents.
Andrus’ Guilty Plea and Sentencing Details:
Charlie Paul Andrus pleaded guilty in June 2016 to conspiracy to retaliate against an informant and was sentenced on August 7, 2017, to six months in prison.
Court records reveal that on the 19th of May, 2011, federal agents arrived at the Huntington hearing office (where Andrus and Daugherty worked) for the purpose of gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
This was a step in their investigation into alleged corruption and fraudulent activities suspected to have been carried out by Administrative Law Judge David Black Daugherty and Eric C. Conn.
On the same day, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) released an article that criticized the Huntington legal office.
Charlie Paul Andrus admitted that the piece caused him personal embarrassment as it portrayed him and the Huntington hearing office, where he worked, in an unfavorable manner.
The consequences of this article, paired with the ongoing criminal investigation, led to Andrus being demoted from his role as Chief Administrative Law Judge.
According to his plea agreement, at the time of his demotion, Andrus was aware that an SSA employee (Sarah Carver) from the hearing office had been meeting with government agents and relaying details to investigators about potential federal offenses.
He also admits to having met with Eric C. Conn soon after the WSJ article was published, and together, they devised and implemented a plan to discredit Sarah Carver, the whistleblower.
Court records indicate their plan involved filming Carver violating a program that allowed employees to work from home, hoping that it would lead Carver to get fired from her job working for the SSA office.
His plea further underscores the lengths to which the conspirators went to protect their fraudulent activities.
Charlie Paul Andrus was sentenced on August 7, 2017, to six months in prison.
Curtis Lee Wyatt
Curtis Lee Wyatt (born February 1970) is from Raccoon, Kentucky, and a longtime employee of Eric C. Conn.
Wyatt’s Guilty Plea and Sentencing Details:
On March 30, 2018, Curtis Lee Wyatt pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to escape from custody related to helping Eric Conn escape. His involvement included helping Conn sever his electronic monitoring device and escape across the Mexican border.
An indictment alleged Wyatt opened a bank account that Eric Conn used to transfer money while in Honduras and that Wyatt tested security at the Mexican border and bought a pickup truck for Conn in preparation for Conn’s escape.
Curtis Lee Wyatt pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to escape from custody related to helping Eric Conn escape.
On June 29, 2018, Wyatt was sentenced to seven months in prison.
Legacy and Impact of the Social Security Fraud Scheme
The scandal surrounding Conn’s fraudulent scheme highlighted the vulnerability of the Social Security disability system to fraud, leading to reforms aimed at improving oversight and accountability.
Unfortunately, the scandal also led to thousands of Conn’s former clients undergoing claim re-evaluations and losing their disability benefits (including SSI and Medicaid), resulting in financial hardship and distress for many who are legitimately disabled.
Essentially, many legitimate claimants were penalized for their SSDI lawyer being Eric Conn and not because they faked their career-ending debilitating injuries, making them the largely unheard victims.
Lawyers in the region, such as attorney Ned Pillersdorf, brought attention to this issue and sought help from attorneys from across the country.
Heeding the cry for help, lawyers have since traveled to eastern Kentucky to do their best to quickly appeal the revoked disability status of the many past Eric C. Conn clients who abruptly lost their monthly benefit payments to get those much-needed benefits reinstated.
They have described the situation as being a humanitarian crisis that will impact the well-being of the area for generations to come.
Despite the severe consequences of Conn’s actions, his case serves as a stark reminder of the lengths to which individuals may go to defraud the system.
It underscores the importance of vigilance and reform in ensuring the integrity of the Social Security system and protecting the rights and interests of legitimate claimants.
The Big Conn Documentary On Apple TV+
On May 6, 2022, Apple TV+ released a multi-part docuseries titled “The Big Conn.” Produced by FunMeter, the production company behind McMillion$ (a show about an organized scheme in the 1990s to defraud the McDonald’s Monopoly Game).
“The Big Conn” series thoroughly explores the details of Conn’s fraudulent scheme. Accompanying each episode is a podcast, providing additional insights into the story.
Research Performed For This Article
Strategy Director and Author Aaron R. Winston performed extensive research and watched every episode of “The Big Conn” to create this article about Eric C. Conn.
Some of the sources that were used to identify and cross-check details of the story include: The Washington Post, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, the Courier Journal, the Appalachian Regional Commission, as well as Eric C. Conn’s Wikipedia page.
Our team at Express Legal Funding hopes you found this an insightful and interesting article to read about disbarred lawyer Eric C. Conn and the largest Social Security Administration fraud scheme he was the mastermind of.
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About the Author
Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
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