June 26, 2017 / 7:54 PM / 2 years ago

Kentucky lawyer in $600 million fraud scheme flees U.S.: report

LOUISVILLE (Reuters) - A Kentucky lawyer who pleaded guilty to participating in a $600 million disability fraud scheme has fled to a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, local media reported.

Former Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn is seen in a photo taken in 2017 and released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI/Handout via REUTERS

Eric Christopher Conn, 56, used a fake passport to flee to a country he did not identify, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, which said it exchanged emails with a person it identified as Conn. The paper said on Sunday that person answered correctly questions only Conn would know.

Scott White, Conn’s attorney, could not be reached by Reuters for comment, but he told the newspaper that he also received emails from that same address, from a person he believed to be Conn.

A federal court in Kentucky issued an arrest warrant for Conn on June 3, the day after officials said he violated conditions of his release by removing a GPS ankle monitor.

Conn pleaded guilty on March 24 to charges stemming from what prosecutors said was his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain $600 million in federal disability payments for thousands of people. His sentencing is scheduled for July 14 and he faces up to 10 years in prison.

The guilty plea came almost a year after Conn, an attorney who advertised his services through the website MrSocialSecurity.com, was charged in April 2016 along with a retired administrative law judge and a psychologist.

Prosecutors said that from 2004 to 2016, Conn, of Pikeville, Kentucky, participated in a scheme that involved submitting thousands of falsified medical documents to the U.S. Social Security Administration.

After Conn fled, the Federal Bureau of Investigation posted a $20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

“We are obtaining more evidence each day identifying how he fled, where he went, and who helped him escape,” said David Habich, a Kentucky spokesman for the FBI.

Conn surrendered his passport in April 2016 after being indicted, but an accomplice outside the United States obtained a fake passport for him, the newspaper reported. Conn did not identify the person who helped him, the paper said.

In the emails to the Kentucky newspaper, the person claiming to be Conn said he fled because he felt it unfair that other defendants in the case received less jail time than himself. He also said he would not surrender without a guarantee he would not be charged with additional crimes for fleeing, the paper said.

Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Editing by Dan Grebler

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