On this edition of THE INTERVUE, a new four-part documentary series debuts on Apple TV+ this Friday! “The Big Conn” tells the unbelievable true story of the larger-than-life attorney, Eric C. Conn, who defrauded the government over half a billion dollars in the largest Social Security fraud case in history. All four parts of the series will premiere alongside an Apple TV+ Original companion podcast that will explore Conn’s con and outrageous lifestyle further with additional interviews and behind-the-scenes details.
Our guests this time are the EPs/Directors of the project, James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte!
So how did you find out about the tale of Mr. Eric C. Conn for this docuseries?
James Lee Hernandez (JLH): We first found out about it through Peter King, who is also an executive producer on this project. We worked with him on McMillion$. We’re at dinner one night, and he brought up that he kind of stumbled onto this interesting, quirky lawyer who stole half a billion dollars from the U.S. government. And Brian and I really dove into it. That was really the beginning of the whole process of making “The Big Conn”. And then we met up with Apple TV+, and they were definitely gained to go down the rabbit hole the same way we were. So here we are.
Were the people that you interviewed in the docuseries very cooperating when it comes to talking about their involvement with this story?
Brian Lazarte (BL) It’s a little hit or miss. Often times, when you’re trying to do a story this deep, a lot of people claim that this was like one of the worst periods of their life. And so, they’re not necessarily happy about talking about that. On the other side, you have someone like Damian Paletta, who wrote The Wall Street Journal article that really kicked off this whole story. And then he became part of the story in a lot of ways.
He was equally as obsessed with this story as we were. And when we started to spend more and more time we realized, like how crazy this story was, you have a crazy, flamboyant attorney who pulls off the largest social security scam in history, stealing over $550 million from the federal government. And then after ten years of doing this and getting away with it goes on the run. And you can’t write that. We found ourselves just every single day, and even to this day learning new things about this story.
And speaking of which, what was one of the new things that you learn about Mr. Conn, that intrigued you?
JLH: There’s so many different things. I think one of the most fascinating pieces of this whole thing is really understanding Eric’s motivations. Eric was actually successful before he started doing anything shady. But it really is the thing that Brian I love to dive into with these stories is you can start to rationalize to yourself, Well, who am I really hurting the US government’s one of the biggest entities on the planet, if not the biggest. And if I’m taking a few extra dollars from them, it’s not really hurting anybody. Then when you really look at it, it’s hurting everyone, because everyone in the United States who pays taxes was affected by the things Eric was doing.
Now, you had a great partnership since “McMillion$”. And now with “The Big Conn”, what is it about a story like these intrigues you that you got to tell the world you got to share the story?
BL: I mean, it’s a necessary story to be told. In fact, I don’t even think we tell the entire story in the four-part documentary series, which is why we also have a companion podcast, it’s going to come out along with this series, starting May 6th on Apple TV+. And so ultimately, I think we just realized like this, like James said, this is an issue that really does affect all of us, everybody in the United States, who pays taxes, we pay into this social security safety net, right.
It’s designed for our future, but it’s also designed for people with disability, which is what Eric C. Conn was taken advantage of. He found a way to really cheat the system in a way and it affected a lot of people. And there were a lot of legitimate people that went to Eric because he was the go-to person in the small town of Eastern Kentucky who ended up getting significantly affected by Eric Conn’s fraud and they were tied into it and they lost benefit. There’s a lot of amazing interest like there’s a lot of humor to this story. But there’s a lot of tragedy to this story as well.
The Big Conn cons itself to Apple TV+ this Friday May 6th