False Claims Act litigation is often a high-stakes business, but it rarely involves international manhunts. Every now and again, though, the world of whistleblower law takes a page straight from Hollywood. This week was one of those times, as Kentucky attorney and convicted fraudster Eric Conn was just apprehended in Honduras, more than six months after fleeing house arrest.
Conn and his law firm had been at the heart of a massive scheme to defraud the United States by falsifying records and paying bribes to an administrative law judge—who is now in federal prison—in exchange for approving false and fraudulent Social Security disability requests.
In 2011, two employees of the Social Security Administration filed a civil lawsuit under the False Claims Act that named Conn and the administrative law judge as defendants. The Department of Justice joined that case in 2016 and eventually filed criminal indictments against Conn and the judge, and also obtained a civil judgment of $31 million. Generally, whistleblowers who file qui tam False Claims Act cases are entitled to receive between 15% and 25% of the proceeds as a relator’s share, though no specific relator share agreement has been publically disclosed in this case.
Conn entered a guilty plea in March of this year, but he fled from custody prior to being sentenced, leading to the federal judge sentencing him in absentia to 12 years in prison and over $170 million in restitution. He was eventually found in the Honduran city of La Ceiba, where Honduran police arrested him and returned him to the U.S.
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