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Former Judge Pleads Guilty For Role in $550 Million Social Security Disability Fraud Scheme

A former administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration (SSA) pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $550 million in federal disability payments from the SSA for thousands of claimants.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General’s (SSA-OIG) Philadelphia Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Amy S. Hess of the FBI’s Louisville, Kentucky, Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Tracey D. Montaño of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Nashville, Tennessee, Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Regional Office made the announcement.

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David Black Daugherty, 81, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves of the Eastern District of Kentucky to an information charging him with two counts of receiving illegal gratuities. Sentencing is set for Aug. 25, 2017.

Daugherty was an administrative law judge at the Social Security hearing office in Huntington, West Virginia (Huntington Hearing Office) for more than 20 years, where his primary responsibility was to adjudicate disability claims on behalf of the SSA. According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, from November 2004 to April 2011, Daugherty accepted more than $609,000 in cash payments, total, in more than approximately 3,100 cases from Social Security disability lawyer, Eric Christopher Conn, of Pikeville, Kentucky, for awarding disability benefits to claimants represented by Conn. Furthermore, in an effort to conceal the source of these cash payments, Daugherty divided cash deposits into various bank branches and accounts, he admitted.

Daugherty admitted that he sought out Conn’s cases pending with the Huntington Hearing Office, contacted Conn and told him what type of medical evidence to submit in support of disability findings and then awarded benefits to claimants represented by Conn without holding hearings. As a result, Conn ultimately received at least $7.1 million in representative fees from the SSA, and Daugherty further obligated the SSA to pay more than $550 million in lifetime benefits to claimants, according to the plea.

Daugherty was indicted on April 1, 2016, along with Conn and Alfred Bradley Adkins, a clinical psychologist of Pikeville. They were charged with conspiracy, fraud, false statements, money laundering and other related offenses in connection with the scheme. Conn pleaded guilty to the fraud scheme earlier this year. As to Adkins, who is awaiting trial, the indictment is merely an allegation as all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The SSA-OIG, FBI, IRS-CI and HHS-OIG investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Dustin M. Davis of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Elizabeth G. Wright of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case, with previous co-counsel including Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford of the Western District of Missouri and Investigative Counsel Kristen M. Warden of the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

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