Guns, NASCAR and Masters tickets used as bribes in failed SC nuclear project, feds say

The mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years.
The mixed oxide fuel factory was under construction at the Savannah River Site for years. MOX Project

A contractor gave tickets to the Masters, NASCAR races and college football games, gift cards and cash bribes as it submitted fake invoices for a South Carolina nuclear fuel facility that was never built, according to a new lawsuit.

The Department of Energy shut down the unfinished construction project on the Savannah River last year after spending billions of dollars and almost a decade on the work, The State reported. The facility “was projected to cost at least $17 billion to complete, about three times original projections,” according to the newspaper.

The facility was “designed to convert surplus nuclear weapons-grade plutonium into safe, stable fuel for civilian nuclear power generation, known as MOX fuel,” according to the court filing.

The United States government sued CB&I AREVA MOX Services LLC, which ran the construction project, and contractor Wise Services Inc. in federal court in Charleston recently, accusing the companies of violating a number of laws in the scheme. The feds accuse Wise of submitting 484 invoices that included materials that did not exist with forged paperwork from suppliers.

“From 2013 through 2014, Wise paid kickbacks to MOX’s officials totaling at least $52,000. These kickbacks consisted of things of value such as cash, gift cards, YETI coolers, sunglasses, mobile phones, NASCAR tickets, Masters Golf Tournament tickets, college football tickets, firearms, and hunting supplies,” according to the DOJ lawsuit.

The company running the construction project knew the invoices were faked but submitted them anyway, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit says Wise stole more than $150,000 with the fake invoices.

Wise gave kickbacks to CB&I to get favorable treatment from the contractor, the suit says. Wise used the bribes on the people at the company who “knew that the material costs being claimed by Wise were not being properly evaluated and approved.”

One person has already been sentenced to prison because of the same accusations in this lawsuit, the Charleston Post and Courier reports. Phillip Thompson, who worked for Wise, pleaded guilty in 2017 on conspiracy charges and received a 23-month prison sentence.

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.