Ex-fugitive lawyer facing more charges

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, December 14, 2017

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Charges are piling up against a Kentucky lawyer whose capture in Central America ended his six months on the run to avoid prison for his role in a massive Social Security fraud case.

A federal prosecutor filed court papers Wednesday signaling the government will try Eric Conn on more than a dozen charges including mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

If convicted, the flamboyant attorney could spend the rest of his life in prison.

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Conn would have avoided the charges if he had abided by his plea deal with the government.

Instead, he cut off his electronic monitor and fled in June, prompting an exhaustive search. Conn had been on home detention while awaiting sentencing, but he disappeared while in Lexington, Kentucky, at the permission of authorities to meet with his attorney and prosecutors.

Conn was captured this month by a SWAT team as he came out of a restaurant in Honduras. He was flown back to the United States and made a court appearance the next day in Lexington.

Following that court hearing, Conn’s attorney, Scott White, told reporters he anticipated federal prosecutors would pursue the more than dozen charges against the 57-year-old Conn that would have been dropped as part of his original plea deal.

White did not immediately respond to an email and phone call seeking comment Thursday. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he’s looking “very closely” at a motion to dismiss the government’s decision to prosecute Conn on the original charges.

Conn pleaded guilty in March to stealing from the federal government and bribing a judge in a more than $500 million Social Security fraud case. His sentencing went on without him last summer, when he was given a 12-year prison term. Conn is now serving that sentence.

Conn’s legal woes include escape and failure to appear charges outlined in an indictment that was unsealed while he was missing. He is scheduled to stand trial on those charges in February. Prosecutors said they want that case to go forward before trying him on the original charges.

Conn, who started his law practice in a trailer in 1993, had portrayed himself as “Mr. Social Security.” He fueled that persona with outlandish TV commercials and small-scale replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial at his office in eastern Kentucky.

Conn represented thousands in successful claims for Social Security benefits.

His empire crumbled when authorities discovered he had been bribing a doctor and judge to approve disability claims based on fake medical evidence.