|Conn sentenced to 6 months home detention
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
A federal judge sentenced Jeffersonville Assembly of God pastor “Robbie” Conn to six months home detention Feb. 28 for defrauding the federal government of more than $100,000.
U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell ordered that the confinement be monitored electronically and that Conn have approval from the Office of Probation and Parole before traveling for anything beyond work or church services.
Conn must also make restitution of the $111,382 in Social Security Administration benefits and $26,208.87 in medical services he reportedly collected through Medicaid, which prosecutors say he was not entitled.
Conn pleaded guilty in September to making a false statement in official documents.
Caldwell ordered that Conn pay back the sum at $100 per month and not open any new lines of credit without making the court aware. The court must also have access to any financial documents, she ordered.
A fine was not imposed.
Conn must serve a term of three years supervised release in which he is prohibited from committing any further local, state or federal crimes or possessing firearms.
Caldwell waived a drug testing requirement because of his medical condition. He had a heart transplant in 2010.
Caldwell gave Conn credit for 75 days of previous incarceration. She declined to put Conn behind bars for any further time.
In this particular case, federal guidelines called for a sentence of 10 to 16 months imprisonment.
While the process of obtaining benefits can be confusing, Caldwell said it was clear that Conn lied about his circumstances and the church board, while well intentioned, allowed him to continue to violate the law.
For this, the judge said, there should be some degree of punishment, but further incarceration was not necessary.
The judge also acknowledged the receipt of numerous letters in support of Conn prior to sentencing. Conn declined to personally address the court.
In a previous letter to the judge Robbie Conn wrote that “my continuing treatment is very costly. I have so many bills that I am doing my very best to pay on. It was never my intent to do any wrong or to defraud anyone in any way. Me and my wife have always worked very hard, paid our taxes and have always tried to be honest and respectable citizens. I had no choice but to do what I needed to do in order to live.”
Conn’s attorney, James Lowry IV of Lexington, told the judge that his client did not intentionally lie. He said Conn simply shifted the administrative work of the church to his wife, Tanya, after his heart transplant while he continued to preach.
Lowry said Conn and his family have already been through enough with his health issues, the stress of the case and now his son, Geordan’s, health issues.
Geordan underwent a heart transplant Jan. 24, the same day his father was originally set to be sentenced. That sentencing date was delayed until Feb. 28.
Lowry said Geordan nearly died from his surgery and Robbie has lived nine years on a heart estimated to last for 10 years.
Any imprisonment would cut into what little of his life expectancy he has left, Lowry told the judge.
Prosecutors claimed Robbie Conn lied to the government by saying he was not working while he continued preaching after his heart transplant, collected benefits and his wife collected his pay.
Conn reportedly stated in federal documents he was unable to work. During this time he served as pastor at Jeffersonville Assembly, where he still remains, according to prosecutors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Anderson asked the judge to balance the need for punishment against the defendant’s health. She encouraged the judge to establish some sort of deterrent to others who might consider breaking the law.
This “was a much more complex deception than giving a bit of misinformation,” she claimed.