From Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge sentenced a former administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration to one year and a day in prison for crimes including engaging in a sex act with a Social Security beneficiary whose case he presided over, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey.
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins sentenced Paul Stribling Conger Jr., 74, of Akron, Ala., for obstructing justice, accepting a gratuity for an official act of a public official and stealing government property. Conger pleaded guilty to the charges in October. The judge also ordered Conger to pay a $4,000 fine. He must report to prison July 24.
Conger served as an administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration from May 1999 to April 2014, presiding over hearings to determine whether someone who applied for disability or other SSA benefits qualified to receive them. Conger’s judicial chambers were in the federal courthouse in Tuscaloosa.
According to court records, Conger presided over the claims hearing of a woman identified in court documents as T.M., in July of 2013. The woman subsequently was approved for SSI benefits, including future monthly payments and retroactive benefits. In November 2013, T.M. discussed Conger with a mutual acquaintance of theirs and was given information that led her to approach the judge about receiving her retroactive SSI benefits in a lump sum of about $10,000.
On Nov. 19, 2013, T.M. met Conger in his chambers at the Tuscaloosa federal courthouse, seeking the lump sum benefits payment. Conger illegally received a gratuity from T.M. when the two engaged in sexual activity in his chambers. Over ensuing weeks, they remained in contact through phone calls and text messages.
Conger stole government property when he took T.M.’s records from the SSA database to learn more about her. The information included medical records and identifiers such as her Social Security number.
Conger obstructed justice by attempting to obtain T.M.’s cell phone and destroy it after learning that he was the subject of a workplace complaint and a SSA Office of Inspector General investigation. According to the court records, Conger paid someone, “Individual B,” to obtain the phone and provided the individual with material from T.M.’s SSA file to help that person find her.
Conger falsely told federal agents that he never had any physical or sexual contact with a claimant, including T.M., even after he was notified that he was the target of a federal grand jury investigation.