The federal government is holding on to more than $600,000 it seized over three years ago from a Savannah River Site subcontractor who is now serving prison time for committing fraud while working at the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF).
In a Jan. 30 filing in the fraud case, Carrie Fisher Sherard, an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department, said the federal government has taken ownership of $613,192 that once belonged to Phillip Thompson, who was sentenced in June 2018 to 23 months in prison.
The government seized the money in October 2015, about two months before the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Thompson and his business partner, Aaron Vennefron, in U.S. District Court of South Carolina. The two ran Ohio-based AV Security and in 2010 landed a subcontracting gig at the MFFF, a now-terminated project that was supposed to convert nuclear weapon-usable plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel.
Under the contract, Thompson and Vennefron purchased hardware materials to meet the needs of the MFFF project, but they admitted in 2017 to falsifying invoice submissions for unspecified materials and submitting those fake invoices with real ones. Thompson entered his guilty plea in February 2017 and Vennefron followed suit in June.
While Thompson serves his 23-month sentence, Vennefron is serving 366 days in prison. Both defendants were ordered upon sentencing to immediately pay a $100 special assessment and $1.6 million in restitution. They will also be placed under three years of supervised release upon being released from prison. Court documents do not state if the seized money covers part of Thompson’s restitution payment, or if it was accrued through fraud. The case administrator was unable to provide that information.
Per federal law, a notice of forfeiture of the $613,192 was posted on www.forfeiture.gov. The posting stayed online from Nov. 7, 2018, to Dec. 6, 2018. In the Jan. 30 filing, Sherard said that the government “may dispose of the property in such manner as the United States Attorney General may direct.” It is unclear what will happen to the money.