The Big Conn interview with executive producers and whistleblowers

Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith in “The Big Conn,” premiering Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+.
Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith in “The Big Conn,” premiering Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+. /

The Big Conn is an upcoming four-part documentary series that tells the unbelievable true story of Eric C. Conn, who defrauded the government over half a billion dollars in one of the largest Social Security fraud cases in history. All four episodes will debut globally on May 6 exclusively on Apple TV+.

Alongside the series, Apple is also releasing an original companion podcast that will further explore Conn’s con and his outrageous lifestyle, complete with additional interviews and behind-the-scenes details. Both will be available simultaneously this Friday!

The Big Conn is created by Emmy Award-nominated filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte, the duo behind McMillion$. We had the chance to chat with Hernandez and Lazarte in addition to Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith, the two women who were whistleblowers on the case.

The Big Conn interview with executive producers  James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte and case whistleblowers Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith

The Big Conn
Photo of Eric C. Conn in The Big Conn, premiering Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+. /

Hidden Remote: Brian and James, I know you guys worked together on McMillion$, but what about this case made you want to center it in your new docuseries The Big Conn?

James Lee Hernandez: We first learned about it from our friend Peter King, who is an executive producer on the project with us. We were working with him on McMillion$, had dinner with him and he brought this up to us.

We really weren’t thinking, “Oh, let’s do another fraud story,” but then as we looked into it [and saw] well, behind this are these two awesome women who stood up to one of the largest government entities, on their own, basically, and the large implications of some of the things that really need to be changed at a government level, we just delved in. We thought this would be our version of an issues doc, where we lure you in with the weird antics of Eric, and then really have a very serious undertone to the entire thing.

Brian Lazarte: I think that just there was a challenge here because of how dense this story was. There had been articles and other news reports, people have talked about it in the past but no one had really taken the deep dive that was necessary to really understand all the players, the complexities, the ramifications of the choices that were made that created this incredible fraud.

There are still things that are happening today, that began 2002-2003, when Sarah and Jennifer had been flagging it as like, “Hey, this is problematic,” and people just didn’t pay attention at that time, or when they started to pay attention, they ignored it, or they tried to stop it from coming out. Look at the results of that over all this time.

The Big Conn
Sarah Carver in The Big Conn, premiering Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+. /

Hidden Remote: Sarah and Jennifer, what is it like to know that this docuseries is coming out and that people all over the world will be able to see it?

Jennifer Griffith: I think it’s a relief that there will be something that is telling it from multiple sides because there has never been anything done that has been as comprehensive as Brian and James have been. It’s always been a small part of it here, or a small part of it there.

For example The Wall Street Journal was a kick-off point, but then the interest as time goes on wanes and fades off then something happens again and it’ll bring it back to the forefront and then it’ll go away again, and it has been this way for over 15 years.

Hidden Remote: What were some of the biggest challenges you guys had to face while trying to get this made?

James Lee Hernandez: The first one was getting Eric involved. First tracking down Eric getting him involved, getting Sarah and Jennifer involved and then trying to do this entire thing during a pandemic was a little bit tricky. But everyone was really gracious we were very safe about everything.

And then there are some very large entities involved so getting in touch with the senate investigation committee, getting in touch with senators and really trying to present the entire story because you have to understand the whole thing.

You can’t look at it as a “cops and robbers” sort of thing because Eric really talks about how, just in general, there are flaws in the system. There are these flaws that Sarah and Jennifer were really pointing out, and there are these flaws that Eric was taking advantage of, and how do we present this information but not make it insanely boring? To streamline that in a way that anybody could digest and understand what the actual crime was, that was a challenge as well.

The Big Conn
The Big Conn, premiering Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+. /

Hidden Remote: I think you guys did a great job with that. I was really engaged from beginning to end and, like I mentioned, where you guys go from the first episode to the last episode, you cover a lot of ground.

Brian Lazarte: There’s a pretty large arc. It’s surprising, like you said when you first jumped in, that there are so many things that you can’t predict, that we couldn’t write, that surprised us along the way. What we hear from Eric in his manuscript, and you see the inner working of how he saw things and what he was going through. Then you start to break down what struggle Sarah and Jennifer were facing on a daily basis, a yearly basis, that went on and on.

I think it’s a rich story, but it’s all these peoples lives and a lot of people were affected by this. That’s what one of the great takeaways with this is, the impact that it had. Sarah and Jennifer always tell us that this whole thing could have been avoided if really just one person had stepped in and said you can’t do that, I’m not going to let you.

Jennifer Griffith: We always say that after that first email we had sent, that if anybody in that office had taken the appropriate action, we would never have met Brian and James, would never have suffered what we suffered through, claimants wouldn’t have suffered, this story would not exist had just one person done their job.

Sarah Carver: There are people that benefitted from it, they benefitted from what happened.

Brian Lazarte: We say it a lot, we talk about it like, what’s the consequence of ignoring a problem, and how there were so many people that turned a blind eye and said hey this doesn’t involve me or I don’t really care and they did this time and time again. They actually tried to get in the way. When you avoid a problem, it becomes a bigger problem to the point that you see the result of it in this particular case and its a tragedy it got as far as it did.

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Jennifer Griffith in The Big Conn, premiering Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+. /

Hidden Remote: What is next for you after The Big Conn, Jennifer and Sarah? Are you going to stay involved with this case or step back?

Sarah Carver: It’s impossible to step back from it. I mean, both of us, we still have, to this day, have dreams about being late for work and we’re going to be punished or part of another investigation.

I think both of us have discussed what we would like to see become of all this and I think we agree that we would like to be part of new legislation to not only protect whistleblowers in the future, but also to change the regulations. On our part, in this area, we just recently opened our own consulting group to help people go through this difficult system.

Jennifer Griffith: We find out more and more every day, through family and friends, just how complicated it is for other people to understand how to navigate most of these government entities.

The Big Conn premieres this Friday, May 6 on Apple TV+.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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