Today’s sentencing of Eric Conn ends an odyssey of more than a dozen years for Jennifer Griffith and Sarah Carver, two extremely brave and tenacious women and co-workers for the Social Security Adminstration who risked everything to end a conspiracy of corruption which allowed Eric Conn, Judge David Daugherty, Chief Judge Charles Andrus and others to literally steal millions of dollars from the American public.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.” Truer words could not have been written or spoken about Jennifer and Sarah, the unsung heroes responsible for the first and final chapters in Conn’s corrupt life.
Unfortunately, because of what can only be described as government incompetence on multiple levels, this last chapter in Conn’s life of corruption was written far too late. This last chapter was written only after the careers and family lives of Jennifer and Sarah were destroyed, and the lives of hundreds of truly disabled Kentuckians were forever changed.
Sadly, after all these years, the American public will still be left without answers as to the reasons two U.S. Attorney’s refused to investigate and indict Conn, Daugherty, and Andrus, even after Jennifer and Sarah filed their civil fraud action in 2011. The American public will still be left without answers as to the reasons it took attorneys with the Civil Division of the Department of Justice nearly five years to intervene in the civil fraud action against Conn, Daugherty and others, and only did so after Conn had already squandered or hidden millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains. The American public will still be left without answers as to the reasons government prosecutors agreed to what could best be described as sweet-heart plea deals with Conn, Daugherty and Andrus, even though the evidence of their corruption was overwhelming. And, more importantly, the American public will still be left without answers as to just exactly what all the government actors involved in this case were hiding from the American public.
After all these years, it would be impossible to list the names of all of those who have had their lives destroyed and careers ruined, at the hands of Conn, a person who can only be described as a sociopath who preyed on those who put their trust in his hands. Unfortunately, because of decisions of government prosecutors from the Department of Justice, today’s sentence was but a drop in the bucket of an appropriate sentence for someone responsible for one of the largest schemes to defraud the American public in modern history.
In the end, the only reward which Jennifer and Sarah will likely receive for their decade long battle to end Conn’s corruption will be the satisfaction that they personally cared. It is likely that they will never receive a dime of the meager amount of money the government has recovered from Conn because of government incompetence. It is also likely that they will not even receive a letter of thanks from those same government officials who spent years covering up or simply ignoring Conn’s corruption.
What is likely is that these same government officials will pat themselves on the back and issue press releases lauding their involvement in Conn’s prosecution, press releases which will not mention a word about their incompetence. What is likely is that these same government officials will quietly put themselves in for incentive awards to reward themselves for what will be described in their own words as a job well done.
What is also likely is that when the book about Conn’s corruption is written, and when asked to explain why this case took more than a decade to bring an end to Conn’s corruption, these same government officials will cloak themselves in that age-old, famous government quote of “No Comment.”
In the end, there were many unsung heroes involved in this decade long odyssey, individuals who worked tirelessly to ensure that Conn would eventually receive a just punishment for all the lives he destroyed. Among the list include former Senator Tom Coburn, who spearheaded the Congressional investigation which first publicly exposed Conn’s corruption; several FBI special agents who refused to allow Conn to escape justice; and, a special assistant United States Attorney from Kansas who was the catalyst behind the criminal investigation which brought us to today.
Finally, the real unsung heroes at the top of the list of the book that has yet to be written will be Jennifer and Sarah, two courageous American women who from the very first day, and in the words of President Reagan did not care who would get credit, or public praise, for eventually ending Conn’s corruption.
So, as I often do, I would invite each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop and help me shout as loudly as possible a thank you to Jennifer and Sarah for having had the courage and tenacity to risk everything to protect the American public from Conn’s corruption, corruption which would have been ignored but for their tireless efforts.
Oh, by the way, after all of these years, and after all that Jennifer and Sarah risked, and ultimately lost, it might be time for the American public to show its thanks to each of them and start a GoFundMe page as a way to let Jennifer and Sarah know that the American public truly appreciates all they have done, all they have risked, and all they have lost to expose government corruption to the light of day.
Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington, Kentucky. Mark and several other dedicated attorneys represented Jennifer and Sarah these many years.
Kentucky Today’s Perspectives section provides a public forum for our readers to express their views on issues of importance. The opinions expressed are those of the writer and should not be construed as an official position taken by this newspaper. We encourage you to join in the conversation by sending your essays to firstname.lastname@example.org. We reserve the right to reject submissions deemed inappropriate.