Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they have settled the first criminal conviction and the first civil settlements related to fraudulently obtained Energy Department “stimulus” funds in the country.
South Carolina’s branch of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina worked with the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General in its investigation.
The Department of Energy awarded American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to the Savannah River Site in 2009 to be used to hire contractors from around the country. These contractors worked at the site on nuclear waste cleanup projects. During their investigation, Energy Department agents discovered that some of those contractors were submitting false claims for “per diem” payments.
Since 2009, the Attorney’s Office says it has helped the Energy Department uncover criminal and civil schemes by various contractors, which has so far resulted in five criminal convictions and the payment of over $1.9 million. Over $700,000 of the recovered money was ARRA funding.
In June, the Attorney’s Office settled with a recruiting firm accused of submitting more than $19,000 in fraudulent per diem expense claims. Southern Recruiters & Consultants Inc. eventually settled, agreeing to pay more than $47,000. Prosecutors also settled against a Louisiana structural designer who they said submitted more than $7,000 in fraudulent claims. That case was settled for $20,000.
In February, three contract employees were charged with embezzling nearly $60,000 from the Savannah River Site.
“This investigation sends a clear message that dispels any belief that “small dollar” frauds against the United States may be committed with impunity,” said United States Attorney Bill Nettles in a statement.