A former Social Security Chief Administrative Law Judge pleaded guilty in federal court Monday for conspiring to retaliate against a former employee of the Social Security Administration (SSA) who provided information regarding potential corruption and fraud to federal investigators.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General’s (SSA-OIG) Philadelphia Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Howard S. Marshall of the FBI’s Louisville, Kentucky, Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Tracey D. Montaño of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) Nashville, Tennessee, Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Atlanta Regional Office made the announcement.
Charlie Paul Andrus, 66, of Huntington, West Virginia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves of the Eastern District of Kentucky to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to retaliate against an informant. Andrus had been an administrative law judge with the SSA 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 securing evidence and interviewing witnesses as part of an investigation into allegations of potential corruption and fraud at the hearing office purportedly 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 Huntington hearing office in a negative light. Because of the article and the criminal investigation, Andrus was demoted from his position as Chief Administrative Law Judge.
Andrus admitted that at the time of his demotion, he was aware that an SSA 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. According to court documents, 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. By pleading guilty today, Andrus admitted that he was aware that the SSA employee reported truthful information to federal investigators and that he wanted to retaliate against the employee 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. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The SSA-OIG, FBI, IRS-CI and HHS-OIG investigated the case. Trial Attorney Dustin M. Davis and Special Trial Attorney Trey Alford of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Kristen M. Warden of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section are prosecuting the case.