A lawyer, a judge, and a handful of doctors allegedly bilked the Social Security system out of $4.5 million, a congressional panel said Monday.
According to the report
from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Eric Conn, an attorney at a Kentucky-based law firm, allegedly paid off a West Virginia judge and doctors to get his clients approved for disability benefits.
According to Fox News
, Conn allegedly paid five doctors about $2 million over the course of six years to provide favorable disability opinions for his clients. Then Conn allegedly turned to Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty to have those disability claims approved.
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"The report describes how one lawyer, several judges and a group of doctors took advantage of the situation and exploited the program for their own personal benefit," Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who led the investigation, told ABC News
"Together, they moved hundreds of claimants onto the disability rolls based on manufactured medical evidence and boilerplate decisions. As a result they saw millions of dollars flow their way, promotions at work, and had bad behavior ignored."
On Monday, Dougherty refused to testify at a hearing before Coburn and other committee members, pleading the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, according to The Washington Times
Daugherty, who also was called to testify, defied a subpoena and did not show at the hearing, the Times also noted.
Federal investigators apparently were tipped off to Daugherty's questionable Social Security approval rating by a Wall Street Journal story in 2011
, detailing how Daugherty, in 2010 alone, had approved 1,375 disability cases prepared by Conn's office.
He denied only four of them, according to the Journal story. Other judges told the newspaper at the time that approval rating was next to impossible.
That same year, Conn's firm was the third-highest-paid disability law firm in the country.
After the Journal story was published, several whistleblowers came forward, claiming Conn and Daugherty started smashing computers and shredding paperwork related to their cases.
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Daugherty was placed on administrative leave as a result of the story and later retired. Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon declined to comment on whether a criminal investigation is underway, according to ABC News.
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