Evans man pleads guilty in $4 million MOX fraud case

The Mixed Oxide Fuel fabrication facility as seen from the air.

COLUMBIA, S.C.- An Evans man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to charges of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds that totaled more than $4.4 million.


Phillip Thompson, 67, decided to change his original not guilty plea and accept charges brought against him. Thompson was in charge of a company called Wise Services, which was a subcontractor under Shaw AREVA MOX Services, when the theft occurred.

MOX Services is the company building the Mixed Oxide Fuel fabrication facility, or MOX, at Savannah River Site. The case against him says he conspired with Aaron Vennefron, a business owner in Ohio, to create fake invoices.

Through Wise Services, Thompson would receive the invoices for phantom goods and services and then collect money from MOX Services. As the MOX facility is a government project funded by Congress, the stolen money came from government coffers.

The judge accepted Thompson’s plea after ensuring he was fit to enter a plea and was mentally and emotionally sound. Thompson told the judge that he understood a plea of guilty waived his right to a trial by jury and that he had been presented with all of the evidence the government’s counsel was set to use against him.

The case laid out by the federal legal team also alleged that Vennefron created a new company during the years-long scheme solely for the purpose of generating and exploiting fraudulent invoices. The two began their scheme in 2009.

Thompson has already had hundreds of thousands of dollars seized from his accounts for restitution. The 67-year old who is suffering from multiple sclerosis now faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a three year supervised release, $250,000 in fines and a $100,000 special assessment.

The MOX construction project at SRS is well over budget and years behind schedule. The $4.4 million sum and subcontractor behavior, though, did not play a role in those shortfalls.

A sentencing date has not been set and the counsel says there will be several rounds of motions and document submissions before that hearing takes place. As part of his guilty plea, Thompson has agreed to pay full restitution.

Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or thomas.gardiner@augustachronicle.com.

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Thu, 12/14/2017 - 22:35

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