LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Federal agents pursuing a fugitive Kentucky lawyer involved in a massive Social Security fraud case believe it's unlikely he could have escaped and eluded capture for so long without help, an FBI official said Friday.
Not only does attorney Eric Conn face the likelihood of additional charges for his escape, but anyone deemed as "co-conspirators" in his disappearance could face charges, said Amy Hess, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky.
Those who could potentially get caught up in the legal fallout from Conn's escape include relatives or associates of the disability lawyer, Hess told reporters. Additional charges could come as soon as Monday, she said.
"We believe that it would be unlikely for him to flee and remain in his escaped status at this point without some type of additional help," Hess said. "So therefore we're pursuing all angles as to who might be helping him currently."
Authorities believe the flamboyant attorney is still in the United States, she said. A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his arrest.
Scott White, Conn's attorney, repeated his call for Conn to surrender to authorities, and said the FBI was "ramping up" efforts to capture him.
"That could well mean that he is about to be charged with a separate crime," White said in an email Friday. "And if that happens, my ability to restrict the consequences to a bond violation is seriously jeopardized. In that case, the number of years he is facing in prison will dramatically increase. In other words, it sounds like he better surrender before Monday."
Conn disappeared June 2, a month before his sentencing. His electronic tracking device was found along Interstate 75 in Lexington, Kentucky. He pleaded guilty in March to stealing from the federal government and bribing a judge in a more than $500 million Social Security fraud case. He was facing up to 12 years in prison and had agreed to pay the government tens of millions of dollars.
Investigators have interviewed relatives, friends and associates of Conn, and on Thursday, state and federal authorities searched his mother's home, his law office and a vehicle, and collected numerous items, Hess said. She said they also are looking into emails and other communications from someone claiming to be Conn that have been sent to news outlets and others.
Conn started his law practice in a trailer in 1993 and built it into one of the country's most lucrative disability law firms. He portrayed himself as "Mr. Social Security," a persona fueled by outlandish TV commercials and small-scale replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial at his office in eastern Kentucky.
His empire crumbled when authorities discovered he had been bribing a doctor and judge to approve disability claims based on fake medical evidence.