Former administrative law judge pleads guilty to taking bribes in $550M disability fraud scheme

Criminal Justice


A former administrative law judge pleaded guilty on Friday to taking more than $609,000 in bribes from a disability lawyer who called himself “Mr. Social Security.”

The former judge, David Black Daugherty, 81, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving illegal gratuities, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice and stories by the Washington Times and the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader.

Daugherty, who heard cases in West Virginia, was accused of taking payments to make favorable rulings in more than 3,100 cases for clients represented by Kentucky lawyer Eric Conn, obligating the government to pay more than $550 million in lifetime disability payments.

Conn, who once called himself “Mr. Social Security,” pleaded guilty in March. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July, according to the Herald-Leader.

Daugherty admitted he sought out Conn’s cases, told him what type of medical evidence to submit, and awarded benefits without holding hearings. Daugherty accepted the illegal payments between November 2004 to April 2011, according to the press release.

The government is holding new hearings to determine whether the claimants in the cases are entitled to benefits. More than half of the applications have since been disapproved, according to the Washington Times.

The actual payout by the Social Security Administration in the cases was $46.5 million, an amount that Conn promised to pay the government. He also promised to pay $5.7 million, representing the fees he earned in the cases.

Daugherty has agreed to pay the government $609,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of four years, according to the Herald-Leader.

Charges are still pending against a psychologist accused of falsifying mental impairment evaluations.

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