The second of two defendants pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of conspiracy and theft in a ploy that siphoned more than $4 million from federal government coffers.
Aaron Vennefron changed his plea in Wednesday’s pre-trial conference in Columbia, owning up to the years-long scheme that took money from Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility through faulty invoices.
According to charges, Vennefron established a company called Wise Services in Ohio. He used the company and coordinated with Evans resident Phillip Thompson to create fake invoices through the company. Thompson, working at SRS, would send orders to Vennefron who created fake invoices.
Thompson took those invoices and submitted them to MOX construction contractor CB&I Areva MOX Services to collect payment. Over time, CB&I realized the welding equipment they paid for was not on site.
Vennefron and Thompson both entered initial not guilty pleas. Wednesday’s change for Vennefron mirrors the guilty plea entered by Thompson at his pretrial conference in late February. According to court documents, the total of monetary and property forfeiture after the indictment amounts to more than $4.4 million.
“The defendant agrees to voluntarily surrender and not contest the forfeiture of property identified in the indictment and a money judgment representing the amount of gross proceeds of the offense,” stated one document.
The documents also list individual assets, including artwork and a cashier’s check with a value of more than $600,000. Documents also stated seized assets are not to be treated as satisfaction of any fine, restitution or cost of imprisonment.
The jury selection was previously set for June 6. Since his entry of a guilty plea, Vennefron will face as many as five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, supervised release for as many as three years, and a special assessment of $100. Vennefron and Thompson are expected to be sentenced later this year.
Reach Thomas Gardiner at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.