Fugitive Eric Conn, Guilty of $550M Social Security Fraud, Nabbed After Signing Onto the Internet
Conn was captured in Honduras after he used a restaurant's WiFi signal.
You've got jail.
Fugitive Eric Conn, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to defrauding Social Security for half a billion dollars, couldn't resist signing onto the internet while on the lam in Honduras.
He was captured by a SWAT team as he left a restaurant in the northern city of La Ceiba, along the Caribbean coast.
Conn, a Kentucky lawyer who specialized in disability cases, escaped house arrest six months ago in Lexington by cutting off his ankle bracelet and heading south, authorities said. In New Mexico, he crossed the border, traveling through Mexico and Guatemala and ended up in Honduras three months ago.
Along the way, he taunted the FBI with messages, officials said.
Conn was famous in Kentucky, where he ran the state's biggest Social Security law firm. In billboard and TV ads, he promised to get clients big-dollar benefits.
But in reality, he ran a criminal group whose members included doctors and judges, authorities said. Together, they bilked the agency's disability system of $550 million, federal officials said.
"We've always been convinced that he hoarded, you know, lots of cash — millions of dollars," attorney Ned Pillersdorf, who represents a group of victims, told CBS News Tuesday. "And hopefully his capture now will give us an opportunity to try to recover some of that money."
Conn was awaiting sentencing when he bolted. In absentia, a judge sentenced him to the maximum punishment of 12 years in prison. He now faces additional time for eluding authorities.
After pleading guilty to charges including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and making false statements, Conn agreed to testify against other indicted members of the corrupt ring, according to federal agents.
Authorities said Conn was helped while he was on the run by one of his indicted co-conspirators who arranged for a car and scoped the less-traveled routes across the border into Mexico.
The case against the ring began in 2011 when two Social Security Administration employees filed a whistleblower suit, naming Conn and federal judge David Daugherty.
The judge reportedly approved more than 3,000 disability cases filed by Conn and accepted more than $600,000 in bribes. Daugherty was sentenced in August to four years behind bars.
The federal government joined the case last year.
More than 800 people in impoverished areas of Kentucky and West Virginia lost their benefits because of Conn's fraudulent claims, authorities said. Two committed suicide after Conn disappeared.
He is expected to be extradited back to the U.S. on Tuesday.
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