A former top regional Social Security judge was sentenced Monday to six months in federal prison for his role in trying to silence a whistleblower who helped expose the largest disability fraud scam in U.S. history.
Charlie Paul Andrus, who was chief administrative law judge in the Social Security office in Huntington, West Virginia, was never charged with a role in the scam itself, but did admit to lashing out at the whistleblower who was helping investigators look into the $550 million fraud ring.
Andrus told the court he was embarrassed that one of his subordinate administrative law judges had been implicated, so he worked with orchestrators of the scam to try to discredit Sarah Carver, the whistleblower.
“I was profoundly wrong,” he told the judge before sentencing.
Andrus was attempting to cover up a scam by Eric C. Conn, one of the country’s most successful disability lawyers, who filed more than 1,700 bogus applications with Social Security, using a stable of doctors to write fake medical evaluations then having David B. Daugherty, an administrative law judge in the Huntington office, rubber-stamp approvals for them.
Authorities say the scam was worth $550 million in bogus lifetime benefit payments.
Conn and Daugherty have also pleaded guilty while one of the psychologists in the scam, Alfred Bradley Adkins, was found guilty in a trial earlier this year. Daugherty and Adkins are awaiting sentencing while Conn jumped bail in June and is on the run. He was sentenced in absentia last month.
Prosecutors went after Andrus for retaliating against the whistleblower, saying he gave Conn inside information on her whereabouts and helped Conn an associate of his put a tail her, hoping to spot her engaged in telework attendance fraud. The man bird-dogged Ms. Carver, even falsifying a video to make it appear as though she was breaking agency work rules.
“It appeared to me that my victim, and employee who had been disciplined in the past for submitting false time entries and making false statements, was in charge and calling the shots. Any grievance she raised seemed to provoke an action from higher management to accommodate her,” the convict wrote. “I remember thinking that if she insisted that others pay a price for their actions, so should she.”
Ms. Carver and a fellow whistleblower, Jennifer Griffith, say Andrus should have faced a stiffer penalty for his involvement in both the retaliation and his role in the actual scam, which they said is more extensive than the government has admitted.
“I understand the judge was limited and could only sentence former Chief ALJ Andrus to the charge of retaliation. However, I feel that it’s the Department of Justice’s fault for not holding him accountable and charging him with conspiracy which occurred between Andrus, Daugherty and Conn,” Ms. Carver said.
She said she had repeatedly told Andrus about the scam that Conn and Daugherty were operating under his nose, but it went on for years.
In a lengthy statement to the court she described one meeting where, with a “cold maliced stare,” she said “he told me it was none of my business.”
Both whistleblowers said Andrus’s attempts at apologies and explanations fell short.
“Former Chief ALJ Andrus has sought to minimize his role in the retaliation against Ms. Carver and myself for 12 years. He continued that minimization today,” said Ms. Griffith.
The government allowed Andrus to retire in 2014.
Social Security wouldn’t say whether he continues to collect retirement benefits, citing concerns for Andrus’s privacy.
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