Created by James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte, Apple TV+’s ‘The Big Conn’ is a gripping true-crime documentary series that exposes the shocking actions of Eric C. Conn, a social security lawyer from Pikeville, Kentucky, who defrauded the federal government of more than $550 million in social security benefits. He was aided by four of his associates, including two SSA judges from Huntington as well as two doctors. Apart from the details of the fraud, the series also depicts the efforts of the two brave whistleblowers who helped nail the wrongdoers — Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith. Let’s find out more about them now, shall we?
Who Are Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith?
Since the early 2000s, Jennifer Lynn Griffith worked as a Master Docket Clerk in the Social Security Administration (SSA) hearings office in Huntington, West Virginia. Specifically, she was a part of the Office of Disabilities Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Meanwhile, Sarah Carver worked in the same office as a Senior Case Technician. Beginning in 2006, both of them started to notice discrepancies in the computerized tracking system, wherein details of cases assigned to Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) David Daugherty went missing.
Upon investigation, both Griffith and Carver discovered that Daugherty was not just making favorable judgments in disability claims cases of Eric C. Conn’s clients but was also reassigning numerous cases of other judges to himself and fast-tracking the hearings. They complained numerous times verbally and in writing to their supervisors, but all their complaints went unanswered. In October 2007, Griffith had to resign due to a bad performance review by the same supervisor she informed about the issue with Daugherty’s conduct earlier.
Regardless, the former SSA employee continued her efforts and gave her statement to administrative law judge Dan Kemper for a complaint against Daugherty’s misconduct with the ALJ union. Afterward, in 2009, she made an anonymous call to the SSA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and reported the case. Furthermore, she filed an online fraud complaint against Conn and Daugherty with the OIG in 2011. Following this, she and Carver met with the OIG representatives for eight hours to provide all the information they had.
In June 2011, Griffith also wrote a letter detailing the retaliation of her supervisors that resulted in her resignation. In October of the same year, she and Carver filed another complaint under the False Claims Act against the culprits as well as a whistleblower’s lawsuit. As per the series, the two ladies also assisted journalist Damian Paletta from the Wall Street Journal with his May 2011 investigative piece about the SSA fraud.
Paletta’s report as well as federal agents raiding the SSA Huntington Office exposed the entire case to the public, following which a hearing with a senate panel was ordered in October 2013 in Washington D.C. Griffith and Carver’s detailed testimonies about Conn and Daugherty, coupled with the explosive testimonies of two former women employees of the social security lawyer proved to be the backbone of the hearing. In addition, the involvement of Dr. Frederic Huffnagle and Dr. Alfred Adkins came to light too.
However, Eric Conn chose to plead the Fifth in the hearing and refused to testify. Later, investigations against the four men continued while attorney Ben Vernia and federal prosecutor Mark Wohlander began representing the whistleblowers. Despite everything being in place, things took a slow pace, but in 2016, Griffith and Carver’s hard work finally paid off when Conn, Daugherty, and Adkins were indicted. In addition, Chief ALJ Charlie Andrus was also charged with conspiracy to retaliate against an informant.
In his plea deal, Andrus admitted that in 2011, he became aware of Carver’s meetings with the OIG, and thus, he and Conn had conspired to get her dismissed from work by implicating her in a false violation of a work from home program for SSA employees. To do so, they had her followed and even tried filming her in a Walmart parking lot. Andrus pleaded guilty to the charges and in August 2017, Carver finally got justice when he was sentenced to six months in prison.
Andrus apologized to Carver during his sentencing, and though she felt that the sentence was not enough for the trauma she experienced, she was happy that some action had been taken. In May 2017, Daugherty was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay over $93 million in restitution. While Conn accepted a plea deal in June 2017, he escaped across the border and was apprehended six months later in Honduras. In September 2018, he was finally sentenced to 27 years in prison and to pay $72,574,609 in restitution.
Where Are Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith Now?
Although the sentencing of Eric Conn and his associates gave a fitting conclusion to Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith’s relentless fight for social justice and truth, their struggles were far from over. In the series, Carver stated that she was merely compensated for the expenses she bore to travel back and forth from Washington D.C. for the hearings.
Carver and Griffith also shared that no government entity related to the case has recognized them as the whistleblowers. The two women further stated that they are now left without any financial security as they left their jobs. The whistleblower lawsuit filed by both women ended in April 2018 and a portion of the money Conn and Daugherty are supposed to pay the government will be given to them, but only if paid.
As far as we can tell, Jennifer Griffith currently resides in Flatwoods, Kentucky, and continues to support Conn’s aggrieved clients and other political causes, mostly via the power of social media. On the other hand, Sarah Carver also voices her opinions frequently on social media and most likely resides in South Point, Ohio. Hopefully, both women shall get their due recognition and rewards soon for the tremendous contribution they made to the government and the masses.