Crooked judge gives new meaning to ‘chutzpah’

Remember the joke about the kid who killed both parents, than asked for mercy from the court because he was an orphan? It’s often cited as a way to illustrate chutzpah.

A trio of agencies this week closed in on another trio — three  citizens who stand accused of defrauding Social Security. No pikers this group. They operated over eight years and are alleged to have defrauded SSA for $5 million. The Justice Department says they conspired to obtain an eventual $600 million. The investigation was carried out by the FBI, the IRS Criminal Investigative Service and the Social Security Administration’s inspector general.

The Justice press release also sounds like the beginning of a joke: “A retired judge, a lawyer and a psychologist …” Only they didn’t walk into a bar,  but rather into an 18-count indictment.

The retired judge charged in the case, 81-year-old David Black Daugherty, was a retired Social Security administrative law judge. According to the FBI, attorney Eric Conn had psychologist Alfred Adkins create phony disability cases for some 2,000 claimants, then steered the cases to Daugherty for decisions.

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I get the sense this came to the authorities’ attention from a whistleblower because the Justice Department alleges Conn threatened people who wanted to call out the scheme.

But it’s also the sort of case illustrating how data analysis can prove a hunch or turn something up altogether new. Conn is said to have funneled cases to a single Kentucky field office of SSA, regardless of where the claimants lived. Daugherty allegedly assigned all the cases to himself. Adkins allegedly dreamed up the disabilities and signed off on forms. All of this activity generated the kind of machine data an agency can store for analysis.

The latest analytical software doesn’t care what format the data came in on. If a piece of data is needed for a query, it will be available. Fraud detection is a top application for big data, in both the public and private sectors.

But it’s hard to picture what kind of software would detect an administrative law judge to use his knowledge to rob the agency he worked for.