Pretrial conference set for second man in $4.4 million MOX theft conspiracy case

A pretrial conference has been set for a man who denied allegations he played a role in scamming $4 million from the U.S. government at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility construction project at Savannah River Site.

 

Aaron Vennefron, a Hamilton, Ohio man, was indicted in 2015 on allegations of conspiracy and theft of funds in a scheme that netted him nearly $4.4 million. According to court documents, Vennefron worked with a company called Wise Services.

Wise Services was established in Ohio in the early 1990s to work with a nuclear facility there. Operations expanded to South Carolina in 2008 when the company won a contract at the MOX project. The company’s senior representative for operations at the project was Evans resident Phillip Thompson. Thompson pleaded guilty to the same charges at his pretrial conference in February.

Court documents allege Vennefron and Thompson began scamming the government out of money in 2009 by filing false invoices for equipment that was never delivered to the site.

Vennefron established a company called AV Security in 2010 that the indictment alleges he used strictly for the scheme. MOX officials with contract company CB&I AREVA MOX Services, the primary contractor on the site, noticed equipment that had been paid for never arrived.

According to records, the pair was subject to over $4.4 million in forfeiture, including interest and all property traceable to their violations. At his February pretrial conference, Thompson said the government had already seized large sums of money from his accounts.

Vennefron initially entered a plea of not guilty, as did Thompson. However, at Thompson’s court appearance in February, his lawyer requested a change and Thompson entered a plea of guilty. He faces up to a five-year prison sentence with three years’ supervised released, along with $250,000 in fines and a $100,000 special assessment. According to a representative at the U.S. District Court in Columbia, the maximum penalties for Vennefron will likely resemble those faced by Thompson, but that will be determined as the case moves closer to trial.

Vennefron’s pretrial conference will be held at the Matthew J. Perry Courthouse in Columbia at 11 a.m. May 31.

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

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