The psychologist who helped pull off the biggest Social Security fraud in U.S. history was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison.
Alfred Bradley Adkins was part of the fraud ring orchestrated by Eric C. Conn, one of the country’s most prominent disability lawyers, and David B. Daugherty, a Social Security judge who rubber-stamped at least 1,700 bogus applications for benefits.
All told, the scam would have cost the government at least $600 million in fraudulent lifetime benefits, according to the government’s conservative estimate. Some $93 million was already paid out before the scam was stopped, the government said.
Judge Danny C. Reeves, sitting in Kentucky, delivered the 25-year sentence in court Friday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. That’s a stiffer sentence than either Conn, who got 12 years, or Daugherty, who got four years, and it’s also more than the penalty the government had been seeking.
But the judge said it was appropriate given the massive size of the fraud and the four charges Adkins was convicted of: mail fraud, wire fraud, making false claims and conspiracy.
Adkins also forced the case to trial, and prosecutors said he lied during the trial, while Conn and Daugherty both voluntarily entered guilty pleas.
Prosecutors had said the case was unprecedented in size and scope, so it was difficult to pinpoint the right sentencing level, but the judge said a stiff penalty was called for.
“He was a key player in a scheme that resulted in a huge loss to state and federal agencies,” Judge Reeves said, according to the Herald-Leader.
According to sentencing guidelines, he could have gotten up to 65 years in prison.
Jennifer Griffith, who along with Sarah Carver blew the whistle on the fraud, said they were “disheartened” that the Justice Department pushed for a cut of 50 years off the potential sentence, saying it didn’t seem the government was taking the offense seriously.
“The failure of the Department of Justice to adequately prosecute these conspirators is not sufficient to serve as a deterrent for future similar crimes within the Social Security Administration,” Ms. Griffith said. “It is not a matter of if this will occur again but when.”
Adkins filled out bogus mental evaluations for Conn’s clients, portraying them as disabled without ever bothering to conduct examinations. He stroked out 249 pre-completed forms, and was paid $350 per form, the government said.
Conn would then use those evaluations, or bogus medical evaluations he got from a stable of doctors he used, to submit applications to Daugherty.
Conn is on the run from the law, having cut off his monitoring device and jumped bail in June, just before he was slated to testify against Adkins. Daugherty is in custody.
Adkins’ family and friends had begged for mercy, portraying him as churchgoing “Brother Brad,” a devoted husband and father. Many of them asked that he receive probation instead of jail time.
“If your honor is a Christian, and I hope you are, you will readily understand that the gospel message is all about second chances,” wrote Parry Compton, who attended church with him. “Brother Brad needs that second chance, to get this situation behind him, so that he can continue to be the same responsible, Christian person that I know him to be.”