- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Curtis Lee Wyatt stands accused of helping his boss escape from house arrest, ducking a 12-year prison sentence for orchestrating the largest Social Security fraud in history.

On Wednesday Mr. Wyatt pleaded not guilty to the charges against him — and was released on house arrest himself.

It’s the latest twist in what’s become an embarrassing case for the federal government. Two Social Security judges have been sentenced to jail time in the $600 million fraud, fraud orchestrator Eric C. Conn cut his ankle bracelet and escaped from custody, and now it appears the government approved salary payments to Mr. Wyatt, Conn’s henchman, at the same time he was allegedly working to break his boss out of custody.

Jennifer L. Griffith and Sarah A. Carver, the Social Security employees at the office in Huntington, West Virginia, who blew the whistle on the massive fraud said they can’t believe Mr. Wyatt was released on home detention.

“This man is well-versed in deception and has practiced extensive ways to enter and exit the United States,” Ms. Griffith said. “We believe allowing this man to remain out on bond poses a threat to not only the victims of his crimes but increases the chances he will flee and join Mr. Conn wherever he may be.”

According to the indictment, Mr. Wyatt bought a getaway car, tested border crossings in Arizona and New Mexico and collected the special Faraday bag device that allowed Conn to safely cut off his ankle bracelet in June, days before he was to testify against a co-conspirator and a month before he was to be sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The FBI is looking for Conn, and had hinted he had help in his escape — and now it’s clear Mr. Wyatt is at least one of those they believe was involved.

Mr. Wyatt has worked for Conn for years, including during the time that Conn, one of the country’s most prominent disability lawyers, ran the Social Security fraud.

He had a Social Security judge on the take, ready to rubber stamp bogus applications, and had a stable of doctors and psychologists to write up fake medical evaluations so the judge could justify the decisions without even bothering with a hearing.

The judge and a psychologist have been sentenced in the case, as has another judge — the chief of the Huntington office — who faces jail time for attempting to silence Ms. Carver, the whistleblower.

Ms. Carver says Mr. Wyatt was hired to intimidate her as part of the silencing scheme.

Despite those allegations, which were not part of the latest indictment, the government and a magistrate judge approved paying Mr. Wyatt out of Conn’s funds during the legal proceedings this year, the whistle-blowers said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier approved those payments, as well as Mr. Wyatt’s release this week and Mr. Conn’s release on house arrest last year.

Ms. Carver and Ms. Griffith called Mr. Wyatt’s release on home confinement “reprehensible.”

A Justice Department lawyer who handled the prosecution didn’t respond to requests for comment. The department’s press office in Washington also didn’t provide a comment.

Judge Wier isn’t speaking about his decisions, either.

“Thank you for the call, but we’re not commenting on it,” said a man who answered the phone at the judge’s chambers in Kentucky on Tuesday.

The whistleblowers said the government’s handling has been troubling from the start.

Sarah and I have long thought that there were political connections that we weren’t really privy to,” Mr. Griffith said. “There’s no way you can explain what else is going on. It’s either sheer ineptitude or he had some very good political connections.”

They even sent a warning to the Justice Department’s lawyers in July demanding they move to cut off court-approved funding for Mr. Wyatt.

She and Ms. Carver said they were stunned at the 12-year sentence prosecutors agreed to for Conn, saying it seemed particularly light for someone the government says orchestrated the largest Social Security fraud in history.

Indeed, the government is still sorting through the disability cases, and fending off multiple lawsuits over its handling of the affair.

“It was a situation where it was making the government look bad, because Social Security let it happen,” Ms. Carver said. “We told the management over years that this was going on and it was an embarrassment. All they did was they wanted it to go away. We got the short of the stick all the way through this. If there was a way they could possibly make it harder on us, they did it.”

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