‘Key Westinghouse witness’ in SC nuclear scandal told lies to help SCANA fool public

A former Westinghouse government who oversaw building on SCANA’s doomed $10 billion nuclear challenge in Fairfield County admitted mendacity concerning the challenge in an effort to fool folks into pondering the doomed challenge can be successful, a federal prosecutor mentioned Thursday in federal courtroom.

The former Westinghouse official, Carl Churchman, 70, was in courtroom in Columbia earlier than U.S. District Judge Mary Lewis to plead responsible to one rely of mendacity to FBI agent Aaron Hawkins.

Churchman, who now lives in Utah, was the third particular person thus far to plead responsible in an ongoing four-year FBI investigation of prison acts related to the 2017 failure of SCANA’s effort to construct two nuclear crops on the V.C. Summer facility in Fairfield County, about 25 miles northwest of Columbia.

It was the largest enterprise failure in S.C. historical past and threw greater than 4,000 folks out of labor. At first, the July 2017 failure of the nuclear challenge was attributed to value overruns and mismanagement, however the FBI investigation has established that prime SCANA officers engaged in a prison conspiracy to conceal the looming enterprise failure from the public, regulars and traders who owned SCANA inventory.

“There is more to come (in the investigation), and Mr. Churchman is a key witness for us,” assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday told Judge Lewis, indicating that extra folks would face prison fees.

In 2020 and this yr, two former prime SCANA executives — Stephen Byrne and Kevin Marsh — pleaded responsible to prison fraud fees associated to their understanding about pricey delays to the challenge, delays they unlawfully saved secret for years from regulators and shareholders. Sentences in these instances are pending.

A plea settlement signed by Churchman with the federal government commits him to offering data to legislation enforcement in the continued investigation and says the federal government will transfer for him to get a lessor sentence if his help is substantial. He faces 5 years in jail for mendacity to FBI agent Hawkins.

Acting U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Rhett DeHart declined after courtroom to say what number of extra folks is likely to be arrested however made it clear there can be others.

“This (Churchman’s) guilty plea shows that the investigation into the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle did not end with the former SCANA executives,” DeHart mentioned in a press launch. “We are committed to seeing this case through and holding all individual and corporate wrongdoers accountable.”

In courtroom statements to the decide, Holliday gave new particulars Thursday about SCANA’s, and now Westinghouse’s, coverup of how dangerous circumstances have been on the nuclear building web site.

As challenge supervisor, Churchman was conscious that Westinghouse executives in early 2017 have been making false statements in conferences to prime SCANA officers about how building was going on the nuclear web site, Holliday mentioned.

The progress of SCANA, a publicly-traded firm whose inventory was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, on the nuclear challenge was being intently watched by traders and regulators. If SCANA completed each nuclear reactors by Dec. 31, 2020, it could qualify for $1.Four billion in tax credit, Holliday mentioned.

In early 2017, though Churchman knew the challenge wouldn’t make these dates, he was concerned in reporting optimistic and false completion dates to SCANA, Holliday mentioned.

On July 31, 2017, SCANA and its junior associate in the nuclear enterprise, Santee Cooper, introduced they have been abandoning the challenge.

The announcement shocked South Carolina’s enterprise and political world. The Legislature had given SCANA permission to add particular fees on to ratepayers electrical payments to pay for the continued billions in building on the nuclear web site.

At the listening to’s finish, Judge Lewis requested Churchman if he was responsible.

“Yes, your honor,” Churchman mentioned.

A sentencing date will probably be set at some undetermined future time.

Besides Holliday, different federal prosecutors on the case are Jim May, Brook Andrews, Emily Limehouse, and Jason Peavy together with John O’Halloran, a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Churchman was represented by Lauren Williams of Charleston.

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