By Mark A. Lies, II, Kerry M. Mohan, and Craig B. Simonsen

A former safety manager at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Nuclear Site was sentenced to 78 months in prison for major fraud.

The safety manager had allegedly hidden over 80 injuries to obtain over $2.5 million in safety bonuses. He was convicted at trial in November 2012, after being charged by a federal grand jury with eight counts of major fraud against the TVA. On April 11, 2013, U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier sentenced the manager to serve 78 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release.

The employer in this case had a contract with TVA to provide maintenance and modifications to the facilities and to provide construction for a reactor restart. The safety manager allegedly generated false injury rates which were used by the employer to collect safety bonuses of over $2.5 million from TVA. As part of a civil agreement filed with the United States in 2008, the employer paid back twice the amount of the received safety bonuses.

At trial, the defendant was convicted of providing the false information about injuries at four plants in 2004, 2005, and in 2006. The evidence presented at trial encompassed over 80 injuries, including broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, and shoulder, back, and knee injuries that were not properly recorded. Some employees testified that they were denied or delayed proper medical treatment as a result of the fraud. The evidence showed that the defendant intentionally misrepresented or simply lied about how the injuries had occurred and how serious the injuries were.

Judge Collier imposed a more severe sentence for the defendant after the Judge found that the defendant had obstructed justice when he testified falsely during the trial. At trial the defendant denied intentionally misclassifying injuries, and disputed the evidence to the contrary in the medical records and from injured employees. The defendant also denied knowing that safety bonuses were tied to his classifications of the injuries. Investigators, however, found emails sent by the defendant with this information and additional information tying the safety bonuses to the injury rates in the defendant’s desk drawers.

This stern sentence sends another stark reminder to individuals in the safety community that it does not pay to falsify records for short-term gain.