Apple TV+ is peeling back the layers on a complex true crime story in "The Big Conn." The enthralling four-part docuseries recalls a government fraud scheme involving Eric C. Conn, the larger-than-life Kentucky attorney who stole over half-a-billion dollars from American taxpayers and was subsequently sentenced to prison for his crimes.
"As we continued to look into [the story], we just became more and more fascinated, not just with Eric, but with the whistleblowers, the 'WSJ' reporter, and the humanitarian crisis that this created at the end of all of it."
The Apple TV+ documentary project was created by Emmy-nominated writer/director duo James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte. The "McMillion$" directors tell POPSUGAR that they were compelled to bring Conn's scandalous story to the small screen after their fellow executive producer Peter King brought it to their attention. "We started looking into it and [King] was on the surface really selling us on it," Hernandez shares. "Like there's this crazy lawyer, he's got Bentleys, multimillion-dollar houses, he's jet-setting around the world, and all off stealing half a billion dollars from the government. As we continued to look into [the story], we just became more and more fascinated, not just with Eric, but with the whistleblowers, the 'WSJ' reporter, and the humanitarian crisis that this created at the end of all of it."
Conn's name, which was once advertised as "Mr. Social Security," used to echo throughout his home state when he headed the largest Social Security law firm in Kentucky. At one point, his clients sought him out for assistance in getting their disability benefits, as that was his specialty. However, these individuals weren't privy to Conn's illegal tactics and were unknowingly pulled into a $600 million fraud.
For years, Conn got away with his fraudulent endeavors by way of bribes to doctors who falsified his clients' medical records and judges who approved their lifetime disability benefits. It wasn't until whistleblowers/former Social Security Administration employees Jennifer Griffith and Sarah Carver came along that Conn's crimes were exposed. But even then, Hernandez and Lazarte say the tragic story has only been documented in "tiny little portions since 2011." "We're all affected by [this case], but we'd never seen a deep dive into it," Lazarte says. "No one had ever spent the amount of time to really see all the different sides and how complex the system is. And that's part of the reason why this fraud happened and he was able to get away with it . . . We're just elated that the story's actually going to get out there in a big way and people can see the whole picture now."
"The people who are really affected by this were his clients — his victims."
To this day, many of Conn's former clients — some of who are featured in "The Big Conn" — are still fighting to reinstate their benefits. And while they're seeking justice through the legal system, Hernandez and Lazarte are hopeful that their docuseries will eventually give them peace of mind. "For any documentary series, there are varying degrees of difficulty [to get people to speak out]," Hernandez notes. "For a lot of people, this is, if not the worst, one of the worst things that have ever happened to them, and they don't exactly want to share that painful moment and relive it . . . We actually hope [this series] provides closure eventually, because a lot of the victims are still fighting to get their benefits back. An unfortunate piece of all this is that people focus on Eric and his crazy antics, the whistleblowers, the 'WSJ' reporter, and the Senate getting involved. But the people who were really affected by this were his clients — his victims."
"The Big Conn" sheds light on the timeline of the con lawyer's scam, the fallout, his prison sentence, and where he is now. But for any lingering questions about the docuseries, read ahead for more behind-the-scenes facts from Hernandez and Lazarte.