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Rural Blog: Eastern Kentucky lawyer convicted in disability-fraud case may have fled the U.S.


The Eastern Kentucky lawyer who pleaded guilty to defrauding taxpayers out of $550 million in Social Security disability benefits has disappeared.

Eric Conn’s former employees “heard him say he would flee to Cuba or Ecuador to avoid criminal charges, and Conn had wired substantial sums of money out of the country at times, an FBI agent testified at one hearing,” report Bill Estep and Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The FBI office said Conn had removed his electronic monitoring device in violation of his bond and that authorities didn’t know where he was. Anyone with information about Conn has been asked to contact the FBI at 502-263-6000.

“Conn pleaded guilty to stealing from the Social Security Administration and paying bribes to a judge to rubber-stamp disability claims for thousands of his clients,” Estep and Blackford write. “Conn remained free on bond pending his sentencing next month, but a judge had ordered him to be on home detention with electronic monitoring.” The FBI said he had removed the monitoring device and his whereabouts are unknown.

“Conn faced up to 12 years in prison,” the Herald-Leader notes. “He had also been ordered to pay more than $80 million — $5.7 million to repay fraudulent earnings; $46.5 million to the Social Security Administration; and $31 million to the government and two whistleblowers who helped expose his wrongdoing and their attorneys.

After Conn was arrested in April 2016, prosecutors argued he should have to stay in jail pending trial, partly because of the risk that he could flee.”

“It was totally predictable,” Ned Pillersdorf, a Prestonsburg lawyer who helped Conn’s former clients win a class-action lawsuit for which he will also owe damages, told The Associated Press. “There has been a betting pool going on in Prestonsburg on not if he would flee, but when.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.


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