Eric Conn, the fugitive Kentucky lawyer who pleaded guilty to a $550 million social security fraud scheme in March — then vanished on June 2 — appears to want to surrender to authorities.
But Conn’s alleged proposal comes with more than a few strings.
Conn’s lawyer, Scott White, told NBC News that he believes the attorney once known as “Mr. Social Security” sent him an email laying out the terms under which he’d surrender to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A local newspaper, the Lexington Herald-Leader, reported that it received a similar note.
NBC News has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the emails.
Among Conn’s requests, White said, was that the agency say why he became a fugitive: He “felt his plea was unfair in comparison to others” who admitted guilt in the scheme, White said.
Among them were two judges — including one who accepted monthly payments of $10,000, according to the Department of Justice — and doctors who fabricated fraudulent disability claims for more than 1,700 people.
As part of his plea deal, Conn, 56, agreed to pay nearly $100 million in penalties and reimbursements and faced a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of theft of government money and one count of payment of gratuities. Sentencing was scheduled for July 14.
Conn was outfitted with an ankle bracelet and placed under house arrest while awaiting an upcoming trial, where he was to testify against against a co-conspirator. On June 2, the FBI said, that bracelet was found in a backpack on the side of an interstate outside Lexington and Conn was gone.
The two ex-judges who participated in the scheme face up to four years and 10 years behind bars for accepting bribes and conspiring to retaliate against a witness, the Associated Press reported.
A lawyer representing Conn’s former clients, Ned Pillersdorf, called the claim that Conn was treated unfairly “astonishing.”
“His former clients, at least those who have not committed suicide, have been left to deal with homelessness, despair, and misery,” Pillersdorf wrote in a Facebook post, according to the AP.
Conn also apparently wants the FBI — which cautioned would-be tipsters about approaching him — to state that he has no history of violence, and to bring no additional fleeing charges against him.
An FBI spokesman, David Habich, told NBC News that the agency was “aware that someone claiming to be Eric Conn contacted numerous media outlets throughout the Commonwealth. That person, however, has not contacted the FBI and we encourage him or her to do so.”
White initially believed the email was a stunt possibly pulled off by one Conn’s former clients.
“When someone runs, particularly so close to trial, it is highly likely they have come up with a pretty clear plan that would not include contacting your lawyer,” he said. “Because of that I thought it may be a hoax.”
But then White thought twice about the note’s writing style and some of its contents. And after reading what Conn apparently sent to the Herald-Leader, White said, “I became convinced.”
White said that he does not know where his client is, though he believes Conn likely contacted him and the newspaper to avoid being tracked.
“Until he sees how and if the FBI responds he doesn’t want to risk some direct contact that the feds could use to forensically locate him,” White said.