Going All Qui Tam In Kentucky
From the Lexington, KY Herald-Leader:
An Eastern Kentucky lawyer who has represented hundreds of people in Social Security disability cases schemed with a federal judge to commit wholesale fraud, two whistle blowers charge in a civil complaint.
Eric C. Conn received millions of dollars from the government for handling disability claims that the administrative law judge improperly approved, the complaint alleges.
Many people were approved for lifetime disability payments they didn't deserve, which could eventually cost the federal government tens of millions of dollars, said Benjamin J. Vernia, one of the attorneys who filed the claim. ...
The judge named in the complaint, David B. Daugherty, improperly manipulated a docketing system to get control of Conn's cases, the lawsuit alleges.
In 2010, Daugherty approved 99.7 percent of the claims before him, when the national average was 62 percent, the complaint said. ...
A court motion in the case indicates federal authorities are conducting a criminal investigation in the case.
Conn issued a statement Tuesday saying he had not seen the complaint and could not comment on it until he had.
"I can certainly say that I have always tried to represent my clients in the best and most appropriate way possible, within all the laws and rules," Conn said in the prepared statement. ...
The complaint against Conn was filed under the federal False Claims Act, under which whistle blowers can get a portion of the money recovered in cases in which the federal government is defrauded. ...
Vernia and Lexington attorneys Mark A. Wohlander, a former assistant federal prosecutor; Brian A. Ritchie; and William Nicholas Wallingford filed the lawsuit for two whistleblowers in October 2011.
The case was sealed until Tuesday, however. That was because the federal government had asked for several stays throughout 2012 as it considered whether to join the case.
The government ultimately said it could not decide whether to intervene by a deadline Thapar had set. Conn said in his statement that it is noteworthy the government decided not to take over the case.
The whistle blowers in the case are Jennifer Griffith and Sarah Carver. Both worked in the Huntington, W.Va., office of the Social Security Administration, which handled appeals in disability cases from Eastern Kentucky, according to the complaint.This type of lawsuit is known as a qui tam action. Qui tam actions have at times been spectacularly successful. In this case, I doubt that's going to happen. Daugherty was approving almost all disability claims that came before him. Conn wasn't representing all those claimants. Other lawyers were representing many of these claimants. Some claimants were unrepresented. Regardless, almost all of these claims were approved. Were all those other attorneys and all those unrepresented claimnats bribing Daugherty? That makes no sense. If it didn't take a bribe to get Daugherty to approve a disability claim, why would Conn bribe him? Would Conn bribe Daugherty to get him to manipulate the docketing system? That's way too visible. This whole case seems awfully improbable to me. Mere suspicions aren't enough to win a qui tam case. You have to have facts. Social Security didn't find enough merit in the case to get involved. Qui tam actions are much less likely to succeed if the government decides to not get involved.