(Reuters) - A disbarred Kentucky lawyer who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in a record $550 million disability fraud scheme on Friday was ordered to serve an additional 15 years after he fled to Honduras to avoid incarceration.
Eric Conn, who ran one of the largest disability practices in the United States, was sentenced to the additional prison term by U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves in Lexington, Kentucky, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The sentencing came after Conn, who called himself “Mr. Social Security,” pleaded guilty in June to three counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to escape.
He had pleaded guilty in March 2017 to charges stemming from the fraud scheme, but he fled that June before his sentencing. Reeves subsequently sentenced him in absentia to 12 years in prison.
Conn, 58, was ultimately arrested in December at a Pizza Hut restaurant in the coastal city of La Ceiba, Honduras, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Reeves also ordered Conn to pay $72.6 million in restitution. A lawyer for Conn, who lived in Pikeville, Kentucky, did not respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors said that from 2004 to 2016, Conn participated in a scheme that involved submitting falsified medical documents to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to obtain disability benefits for thousands of people.
Prosecutors said that from 2004 through 2011, Conn paid a now-retired SSA administrative law judge about $10,000 a month to award benefits to his clients for whom Conn submitted falsified medical documents.
As a result, the administrative judge issued decisions granting benefits in well over 1,700 of Conn’s clients’ cases, prosecutors said.
Conn also paid medical professionals to sign fabricated medical forms before evaluations of his clients took place, prosecutors said.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler