Taking down largest federal disability scam in U.S. history earns legal team top fraud prosecutor award
1/10/2019Kentucky lawyer ran $550-million insurance-fraud scam, earns 27 years in prison
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2018 — Taking down the largest federal disability scheme in U.S. history — a $550-million behemoth — has earned two prosecutors the Prosecutor of the Year Award from the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.
Dustin Davis and Elizabeth Wright faced long odds to earn the nation’s largest insurance-fraud conviction of 2018 as prosecutors for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Davis and Wright worked with a team of other prosecutors and investigators. Flamboyant Kentucky disability lawyer Eric Conn led the fraud ring and received 27 years in federal prison. A corrupt doctor and administrative law judge also were convicted.
The award was presented at the Coalition’s recent 25th anniversary member meeting in Washington, D.C.
Conn falsified medical records for thousands of impoverished residents in rural Kentucky and West Virginia. He presented the records to the Social Security Administration to falsely obtain disability payments. Conn bribed a corrupt doctor and at least one judge to slide their fraudulent insurance claims through the Social Security system.
Patients were approved for disability payments without medical exams. Medical case files were forged to create illusion of a disabled person. The corrupt judge rubber-stamped their claims. Conn’s fraud ring took shares of the incoming disability payouts.
Davis and Wright took on the imposingly complex case with barely a year left before the federal statute of limitations would expire — leaving Conn free and wealthy. Other jurisdictions refused the case; it was too large.
The prosecution had to build the case from eyewitness accounts and voluminous documents that helped prove the massive scheme. Davis and Wright, along with other prosecutors, worked around the clock with their small team of investigators to build the indictment. Some 5,000 disability cases were organized and analyzed quickly for fraud. Other evidence had to be carefully pieced together. Davis and Wright landed the indictment of Conn and his associates in time.
Then came the prosecution. The massive evidence of a fraud crime was clear and convincing — bogus disability claims, bribe money paid out, signatures on checks, phone calls and much more evidence. Several hundred exhibits also were organized. Dozens of witnesses agreed to testify.
Conn knew he had little chance at trial, and pled guilty. The administrative law judge also pled guilty, leaving only the doctor to go to trial. Conn cut off his ankle monitoring bracelet and fled to Honduras — just before he was sentenced, and right before the doctor’s trial. Losing Conn was a blow to the prosecution. He also was a witness against the corrupt doctor. Davis and Wright had to restructure the entire case, yet still convicted the doctor at trial.
Conn finally was rearrested in Honduras, and sent back to the U.S. He ended up with 27 years in federal prison for the fraud and his escape.
The Prosecutor of the Year Award is named after the late Walter T. Dartland. He was a prosecutor, consumer advocate and longtime Coalition board member.
James Quiggle, Coalition Against Insurance Fraud 202-393-7331;
Nicole Navas Oxman, DOJ