Displaying items by tag: law

FBI: Fugitive Lawyer Likely Still in the United States

  • Published in U.S.
 

By BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A fugitive Kentucky lawyer at the center of a nearly $600 million Social Security fraud case is believed to still be in the country, but "we're not sure how long that will be," an FBI official said Wednesday.

A $20,000 reward was offered for information leading authorities to Eric Conn, the flamboyant disability lawyer who disappeared last week, a month before his sentencing. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Conn pleaded guilty in March to stealing from the federal government and bribing a judge. He had been ordered to pay the government tens of millions of dollars.

The FBI is working with multiple agencies and is pursuing numerous leads, said Amy Hess, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky.

 

"We believe he is still in the country, but we are not sure how long that will be," she told reporters.

Conn's electronic monitoring device meant to track his whereabouts was found Friday evening along Interstate 75 in Lexington, and the FBI was notified soon thereafter, Hess said.

Authorities have no information to indicate that Conn was assisted in fleeing but have not ruled it out, she said. Hess warned that anyone helping Conn would be held accountable by law enforcement.

"It appears that he fled by his own free will, that he chose to do so," Hess said. "He knew what he was doing."

Asked if he was considered dangerous, she said: "He is desperate to escape punishment and be held accountable for his crime, and desperate people do desperate things."

Conn started his law practice in a trailer in 1993 and built it into one of the most lucrative disability law firms in the country.

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 federal investigators uncovered he had been bribing a doctor and judge to approve disability claims based on fake medical evidence.

As part of his plea deal in March, he agreed to pay the federal government $5.7 million and to reimburse Social Security $46 million. A federal judge ordered Conn to pay $12 million in damages and $19 million in penalties to the government and two former Social Security employees who tried to expose the scheme. Conn also is facing a liability judgment from a class-action lawsuit brought by his former clients.

Conn was a frequent world traveler as he built his law firm. Hess declined comment Wednesday when asked if authorities found any signs he had transferred money outside the country to set up a refuge.

Scott White, Conn's attorney, said he has not heard from Conn.

"Let's hope Eric does the right thing and reaches out to surrender," White said in an email Wednesday.

Hundreds of Conn's clients in the impoverished coalfields of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia have been fighting to keep their disability checks. Ned Pillersdorf, who represents Conn's former clients, has said the anger toward Conn "is overwhelming."

"We need Eric Conn to face justice," Hess said. "We need him to come back and be accountable for his actions in defrauding not only the government, (but also) the U.S. taxpayer."

___

This story has been edited to clarify that authorities believe the lawyer is still in the country, but don't know for sure.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Strong voice comes from founder of Southern Poverty Law Center

It's 2017. But the fight for justice and tolerance has never been abandoned, thanks to an Alabama-born lawyer who, when still in his boyhood, tells his story "as the son of a poor Alabama cotton farmer who witnessed grave injustices," against "my African American neighbors and was inspired to earn my law degree so that I could fight for the rights of those with no other champions."
In his autobiography, Morris Dees says: "I was honored when the American BarAssociation chose to publish my book as the first in a series about lawyer spursuing justice."
The aforesaid book, "A Lawyer's Journey," relates how the author worked on his cases that came to him "over the past 40 years,"as Dees considers how "blessed" he has been in carrying out his work with lawyers, investigators, and others "who have a real passion for justice."
The Center, founded in 1971, modestly described by Dees as having "brought tough challenges and unforgettable moments of triumph," was responsible for putting up the fight against the United Klans of America who were found"liable in the lynching death of a black teen."
"I'll never forget the day I stood with our staff in a Mobile, Alabama courtroom as an all-white jury found the aforementioned 'United Klans of America' liable.
"It was poetic justice when the group was forced to turn over the deed to its national headquarters to the victim's mother."
Dees recounts another experience in his fight against racial injustice.
"Equally memorable was the day I walked through the ashes of our building after it was firebombed by the Klan. Not a single employee quit because of that arson.Instead, we rebuilt and we grew stronger than ever.
"And there was the heartbreaking moment when I held my sobbing young daughter in 1984while Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and guards searched the woods around our home for armed intruders who were determined to stop our work for justice, equality and tolerance."
Standing out as one of the Center's humble pride is how it does not receive government funds and accepts 'no fees' from clients who have been recipients of assistance.
The Center is financially supported by those who are called the Friends of the Center; each supporter believes in the fight for justice and tolerance through pledging 'modest amounts' each month to cover legal and educational programs.
Interestingly, the Friends of the Center provide the financial security of the organization's cause.
The founder says how 'impossible' it is to predict how 'lengthy' or how 'costly,'their 'legal actions' will be.
Dees amplified his statement when he pointed out how one case the Center won, lasted more than 20 years.
The Center has a Teaching Tolerance staff dedicated to spreading the message of tolerance and changing the 'hearts of young people across the country.'
Awe-inspiring is learning about how the Center's lawyers and investigators have pledged to fight for justice in court, no matter how long the hours or how difficult and dangerous the work would entail.
In sum, the author's autobiography is a modest but significant contribution that led Dees to the front lines of the civil rights struggle and his ongoing crusade opposing hate groups.
In A Lawyer's Journey, it narrates how a courageous and often lonely journey of a skilled and described 'controversial trial lawyer,' does parallel the nation's struggle to ensure freedom and equality for its citizenry.

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Contempt of Court

The primary purpose of the contempt power is to preserve the effectiveness and sustain the power of the courts. The secondary purpose is to protect and enforce the parties’ rights by compelling obedience to court orders and judgments. Examples of this would be failure to appear when subpoenaed, screaming profanities in court, and failure to obey a court order.
The judge may impose sanctions such as fines or jail for someone found guilty of contempt of court. For criminal cases, sanctions typically are a jail term and fines that are intended to punish. Probationary terms may also be imposed. As for civil contempt, sanctions may include a fine or a jail term that ends when the offending behavior ends and money damages may be awarded to the injured party.
To prove contempt the prosecutor or complainant must prove four elements: existence of a lawful order, knowledge of the order, ability to comply and the failure to comply. As referenced, my client had attorneys and an accountant to insure that effective and full compliance with court proceedings would be effectuated.
I have a case now in which the opposing party in a divorce case is facing numerous contempt charges for failing to provide financial information as ordered by the Court. The crux of the case generally falls on the factors of the “Respondent/Defendant’s” ability and willingness to comply with a court order. Another relief that could be requested is attorney fees incurred in filing an affidavit of contempt in the family court case scenario.
I have defended several clients in numerous counts of family law contempt cause of actions pertaining to financial obligations such as child support, spousal support and attorney fees (financial issues). Another area where contempt is brought forth is in violations of a visitation order or restraining orders. My most recent case is about noncompliance and overt disobedience of a court order requiring the other party to provide financial documents for “discovery.”
The four factors to be proven: valid court order, knowledge of the order, ability to comply with the order, and willfulness of conduct must all be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in both the civil and criminal arena. Since the court can impose up to five days per count of jail, a maximum of 180 days of jail would trigger the right of the Respondent/Defendant to request a jury trial.
The power to punish for contempt is broad and carries with it great responsibility to apply it judiciously and only when contempt is clearly and unequivocally shown. Defendants in criminal matters should be given every opportunity to exonerate themselves. Criminal contempt sanctions should be only utilized after the judge has determined that civil contempt remedies are inappropriate.
It is incumbent and prudent if you are the party that is attempting to get a contempt action initiated and successful that you hire an attorney that have both the experiences and expertise in both the criminal and civil arena. While in family law (civil) court is not the criminal arena, the constitutional rights afforded a criminal defendant will be required, including but not limited to, a right to an attorney, right to a speedy trial, and a right to remain silent.
It is a complex matter that will require you to get an attorney not only to decipher the pleading requirements but also to effectively win the case in trial.
Any questions, call me at 310-601-7144 or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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