Walter Cardin, 55, of Metairie, LA, will be doing 78 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release after his conviction on eight counts of major fraud against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an agency of the United States.
The indictment and November 2012 conviction of Cardin in U.S. District Court was the result of a six-year investigation conducted by the TVA-Office of Inspector General (TVA-OIG).
As safety manager for the Shaw Group (formerly Stone & Webster Construction) at TVA’s Brown’s Ferry Nuclear site in Athens, AL, Cardin provided false and misleading information about injuries at that facility as well as TVA’s Sequoyah Nuclear site in Soddy Daisy, TN, and TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear site near Spring City, TN, court records said.
The Shaw Group had a contract with TVA to provide maintenance and modifications to the three facilities and to provide construction for the Brown’s Ferry Unit Number 1 reactor restart, officials said. Cardin generated false injury rates which the Shaw Group were able to use 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 Shaw Group paid back twice the amount of the ill-gotten safety bonuses.
Cardin ended up convicted of providing the false information about injuries by underreporting their number and severity, officials said. The false information came from the three plants in 2004 and 2005, and at the Brown’s Ferry and Sequoyah plants in 2006. The evidence presented at trial encompassed over 80 injuries, including broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, and shoulder, back, and knee injuries not properly recorded by Cardin. Some employees testified they ended up denied or delayed proper medical treatment as a result of Cardin’s fraud. Evidence showed Cardin intentionally misrepresented or simply lied about how the injuries had occurred and how serious the injuries were, officials said.
Judge Collier imposed a more severe sentence after he found he had obstructed justice when he testified falsely during the trial. At trial, Cardin denied intentionally misclassifying injuries, disputing the evidence to the contrary in the medical records and from injured employees, officials said. Cardin also denied knowing that safety bonuses tied into his classifications of the injuries. Investigators found emails sent by Cardin with this information and additional information tying the safety bonuses to the injury rates in Cardin’s desk drawers. Judge Collier cited the twin aims of deterrence and retribution to justify Cardin’s sentence.
“The defendant’s practices affected the safety of the work environment of nuclear sites,” said U.S. Attorney William C. Killian. “They resulted in employees becoming more reluctant to report injuries, employers failing to address safety issues on the work sites, and employees working through medical conditions that created risks of additional injuries to themselves and others.”