West Virginia ALJ Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

     (CN) – A former chief administrative law judge pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring against an ex-Social Security Administration employee who cooperated with a federal fraud investigation.
     Charlie Paul Andrus, 66, of Huntington, W.Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves of the Lexington, Ky. Federal Court to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to retaliate against an informant.
     Andrus had been an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration for nearly 28 years, where he was responsible for adjudicating claims for disability benefits on behalf of the SSA.
     In 1997, Andrus was promoted to the position of chief administrative law judge for the hearing office located in Huntington.
     According to court documents, on May 19, 2011, federal agents went to the Huntington hearing office and began an investigation into alleged corruption and fraud committed by Administrative Law Judge David Black Daugherty and an attorney in Kentucky, Eric Christopher Conn.
     That same day, The Wall Street Journal published an article critical of the Huntington hearing office. Andrus admitted that the article was personally embarrassing, as it cast both him and the office in a negative light. Because of the article and the criminal investigation, Andrus was demoted.
     Prosecutors said Andrus was aware that a Social Security Administration employee from the hearing office was meeting with investigators and relaying information about potential federal offenses.
     According to his plea agreement, Andrus met with Conn shortly after the article was published and the two devised and implemented a plan to discredit the informant.
     As described in court, the plan involved filming the informant violating a program that allowed employees to work from home, with the hope that the informant would be terminated as a result.
     In pleading guilty, Andrus admitted he was aware the agency employee reported truthful information to federal investigators and that he wanted to retaliate by interfering with the employee’s employment and livelihood.
     In a related case, Conn and Daugherty were charged in an 18-count indictment with conspiracy, fraud, obstruction, false statement and money laundering in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $600 million in federal disability payments for thousands of claimants.
     That indictment included charges related to the conduct that forms the basis of Andrus’ guilty plea.

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