Monday, May 15, 2017

Former Social Security judge pleads guilty to taking bribes in disability scam with coalfield lawyer

David Daugherty (Lexington Herald-
 photo by Pablo Alcala)
A federal Social Security judge in Huntington, W.Va., pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to two felonies of accepting illegal gratuities from an Eastern Kentucky lawyer in fraudulent disability cases, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. David Black Daugherty, 81, admitted to accepting more than $609,000 in bribes from 2004-11 to award disability benefits to thousands of clients of attorney Eric C. Conn, who pleaded guilty in March to stealing from the Social Security Administration and bribing Daugherty.

Conn admitted he falsified medical documents to show clients were disabled and paid doctors to sign the evaluations, Estep writes. From October 2004 to April 2011, Conn made a payment to Daugherty for each favorable decision made by Daugherty, who "arranged for Conn’s cases to be assigned to him—taking files off other judges’ desks in some cases—and rubber-stamped the claims."

According to court documents, Daugherty awarded benefits to people represented by Conn in 3,149 cases, Estep writes. His decisions in those cases "would have obligated the government to pay $550 million in benefits, the court document said. The government actually paid $46.5 million to people that the agency has determined were not eligible to receive before the scheme came to light, according to a document in Conn’s case. Daugherty retired abruptly in 2011 after federal authorities began investigating."

Prosecutors are pushing for the maximum sentence of four years when Daugherty is sentenced in August. Conn faces up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 14.

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