U.S. News

Kentucky psychologist gets 25 years in prison for $550 million disability fraud

(Reuters) - A former clinical psychologist in Kentucky was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Friday for what prosecutors said was his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain $550 million in federal disability payments for thousands of people.

Alfred Adkins, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves in Lexington, Kentucky, after a federal jury in June found him guilty of charges including conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Adkins, of Pikeville, Kentucky, was also ordered to pay over $93 million in restitution, the Justice Department said. Adkins is expected to appeal.

His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Adkins was charged in April 2016 along with a retired U.S. Social Security Administration administrative law judge and a lawyer who advertised his services through the website and is now considered a fugitive.

Prosecutors said from 2004 to 2011, the judge, David Daugherty, accepted over $609,000 from Social Security disability lawyer Eric Conn, also of Pikeville, for awarding benefits to claimants the attorney represented in 3,149 cases.

Conn also paid medical professionals including Adkins to sign fabricated medical forms before evaluations of his clients took place, prosecutors said. During the scheme, Adkins earned about $200,000, prosecutors said.

Adkins also performed perfunctory evaluations of Conn’s clients and altered his findings at the lawyer’s request on certain reports before signing forms claiming the clients were qualified for benefits, prosecutors said.

Based on the fraudulent medical documentation Conn and Adkins submitted, Daugherty issued decisions granting disability benefits in favor of Conn’s clients, prosecutors said.

The scheme resulted in Conn’s earning over $7 million in fees from the agency and caused the government to be obligated to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits to claimants, prosecutors said.

Conn pleaded guilty in March to one count of theft of government money and one count of payment of gratuities. Conn subsequently fled in June and remains a fugitive. In July, he was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison.

Daugherty was sentenced in August to four years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of receiving illegal gratuities.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, editing by G Crosse