Notorious Kentucky fraudster Eric Conn and his employee had been planning the convicted lawyer’s flight from federal authorities for more than a year, according to a new indictment unsealed Monday.
Conn’s employee, Curtis Lee Wyatt, allegedly checked security measures at the U.S.-Mexico border, bought and registered a getaway car, and helped coordinate Conn’s escape.
Federal investigators unveiled these latest allegations in a grand jury indictment, filed in early September and unsealed Monday, that charges Wyatt with conspiracy, assisting escape, aiding and abetting and making false statements to the FBI. An additional co-conspirator, who remains unnamed, also took part in the scheme, according to court records.
Conn is responsible for one of the largest Social Security fraud schemes in the country. Over ten years, he worked with a judge and a psychologist to cheat the U.S. Social Security Administration out of $550 million in lifetime benefits. His escape in July landed him on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
Wyatt, of Raccoon in Pike County, allegedly opened a bank account to help Conn transfer money outside the United States. He also bought a vehicle for Conn and registered it to a shell corporation in Montana, according to the indictment.
To test the escape plan, Wyatt crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at different locations. And authorities claim he coordinated a vehicle hand-off that allowed Conn to escape from under the noses of his lawyers, prosecutors and the federal probation system.
In July, the FBI released photos of Conn at a Walmart and a gas station in New Mexico, but said there was no evidence he had crossed the border into Mexico.
Conn was a colorful character who often bragged about his international travel exploits and overseas girlfriends. When he was arrested in April 2016, the judge ordered him on house arrest.
Even after he pleaded guilty a year later, Conn remained out on bond, pending his sentencing. He put his house up as collateral and was forced to wear an ankle monitor.
It’s rare for white-collar criminals to flee federal custody. But Conn was not deterred.
As early as June 2016, he and Wyatt were allegedly hatching an escape plan. Their efforts kicked into high gear after Conn pleaded guilty this spring.
According to the FBI:
- In late April, Wyatt crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at checkpoints in Nogales, Arizona, and Columbus, New Mexico.
- On May 10th, Wyatt bought a white 2002 Dodge Ram pickup truck for $3,425 from a seller in Somerset, Kentucky. He registered the car to Disability Services, LLC in Kalispell, Montana.
- Conn purchased a Faraday bag, which blocks the electronic signals of anything inside — like an ankle monitor.
With the permission of his probation officer, Conn traveled from his home in Pikeville to Lexington to meet with his attorney and prosecutors on June 1. There, Wyatt allegedly handed off the Faraday bag and the white Dodge Ram to Conn.
A day later, Conn cut off his ankle monitor and threw it on the side of the road in the Faraday bag, authorities allege. He then drove to New Mexico and ditched the truck.
Eleanor Klibanoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (502) 814.6544.