Disability attorney jailed on undisclosed charges

By Kyla Asbury and Chris Dickerson | Apr 5, 2016

PIKEVILLE, Ky. – Disability attorney Eric C. Conn was arrested Monday and is currently in the Pike County Detention Center and no bond has been set.

Conn was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and is held for U.S. Marshals. He is being held on undisclosed federal charges.

The attorney, who has been subject of allegations of fraudulent conduct involving Social Security disability claims, was booked at 7:12 p.m., according to the jail’s website. An officer with the last name of Copley was the arresting officer and the arresting agency was the FBI.

In 2013, a U.S. Senate investigation alleged that his firm had submitted medical evidence from doctors who did not properly examine some people and that Conn improperly colluded with federal Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty to get claims approved.

In May, the Social Security Administration notified approximately 900 of Conn’s former clients that it would be cutting off their disability checks until their eligibility was re-determined. However, after a request by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, the officials decided to continue disability checks while re-determining eligibility.

Previously, two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Conn after former clients committed suicide when their benefits were suspended.

Last year, the SSA confirmed it was reviewing disability benefits for approximately 1,500 cases that were tied to Conn and Daugherty, who worked in Huntington.

SSA mailed notices in May to the former clients after its Office of the Inspector General found evidence of fraud in cases involving four doctors utilized by Conn and his law firm in Stanville, Ky.

Congressional investigators alleged Conn relied upon medical experts for false or fraudulent testimony, while Daugherty assigned himself those cases and awarded benefits to hundreds of applicants without justification.

A motion was filed June 2 seeking an emergency injunction to block the SSA from suspending benefits to the claimants and relatives, just as an attorney reported as many as three clients committed suicide as a direct result of the suspensions. The attorney cited the man's widow in saying the client shot himself at his Ivel, Ky., home.

In 2011, amid the scandal, Daugherty was placed on leave while SSA investigated the high number of social security applications he had granted so far during the fiscal year.

Daugherty had said it was simply a coincidence that he happened to approve all of the cases in the first half of the year, claiming that attorneys have been extremely well-prepared and had figured out how to bring forth cases that were hard to deny.

Conn was the attorney on a large number of the cases Daugherty approved.

Daugherty awarded benefits in each of the 729 disability cases he decided in the first six months of 2011's fiscal year. In 2010, Daugherty denied benefits in only four cases out of 1,284.

There are 1,500 administrative law judges who rule on disability cases in which applicants have been denied at least twice by Social Security. Judges award benefits approximately 60 percent of the time, according to government statistics.

Daugherty retired amid paid suspension and later voluntarily agreed to have his state law license annulled in 2014.

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