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MR. SOCIAL SECURITY: PART 1

Since its inception by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Social Security has stood as a cornerstone in the lives of many working-class Americans. For every American who has helped build this country by enduring physically demanding and dangerous labor, Social Security delivers a sense of financial security in the event that they stop working. Whether it’s a result of their retirement or being physically unable to work, Social Security assures them of their future.

Taking into account the significance of Social Security benefits, the U.S. Congress and Social Security Administration (SSA) were influenced to make earning benefits rather tricky. They instituted an intricate administrative system to determine if an individual qualifies for one of two benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI benefits are payroll funded insurance measures that compensate individuals who cannot continue working their previous job or any other job the national economy has to offer. SSI benefits are intended for low income individuals who are disabled, over 65 years of age, or blind. The prerequisites established by Congress and the SSA leave those seeking social security benefits no choice but to rely on legal representation to prove they’re qualification.

But what happens when that trusted attorney decides to involve countless unsuspecting individuals, genuinely seeking aid, in a self-serving fraud scheme that jeopardizes both their social security benefits and civil rights? In the states of Kentucky and West Virginia, this illicit scenario has already been perpetrated for years by a party that is comprised of several doctors, two administrative law judges, and “Mr. Social Security” himself at the helm, attorney Eric Conn.

At the peak of his legal career, attorney Conn raked in approximately four million dollars in legal fees and managed a firm with a staff of up to 40 people. He achieved and maintained this level of “success” by employing ostentatious marketing strategies to persuade virtually all disabled clients in his area to consult with his law practice. From the half-million dollar Abraham Lincoln statue housed in his firm’s parking lot to the regular public event appearances accompanied by his entourage of attractive women he dubbed “The Conn Hotties,” disabled Kentuckians and West Virginians were convinced that he would get the job done. News of Conn’s legal “success” and extravagant promotions of his practice circulated within both states, eventually earning him the handle “Mr. Social Security.” Clients trusted the “ONLY Social Security Disability Specialist in Kentucky” to win their disability cases and he actually did, albeit illegally.

As his clients relished in their legal success, they were ignorant of the unfortunate events that were yet to come. In May of 2015, clients who once trusted attorney Conn experienced a sense of betrayal as the SSA began to suspend their benefits due suspicions of fraudulent claims. In that month alone, close to 900 individuals had their benefits interrupted, while another 600 were informed that their cases were to be reviewed for suspicions of fraud. Thanks to the one and only “Mr. Social Security”, at least 1,787 of his former clients were now involved in a government investigation of his decade-long fraudulent scheme.