COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) — A former executive of the now-defunct SCANA corporation on Wednesday was sentenced to 15 months behind bars for his role in a fraud scheme.
Stephen Byrne, a former chief operating officer and vice president for South Carolina's former energy company, may receive jail time for his role in the failed V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant project that made headlines in 2017 and 2018.
A federal judge also ordered to pay a $200,000 fine and $1 million in restitution.
Byrne and other executives pleaded guilty in July 2020 for their role in a “scheme to defraud” customers for a project to build two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors just north of Columbia. The US District Attorney's Office said Byrne joined the conspiracy after becoming aware of failed efforts to improve the pace and productivity of the project.
This conspiracy to defraud SCANA customers is breathtaking in scope and audacity,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris said in a 2020 statement. “The FBI remains committed to ensure all those responsible for this crime, which only served to enrich a few by robbing families and communities within South Carolina, are held accountable. I thank SLED for its assistance in this complex and extensive investigation.”
Byrne made false statements to the public and several government agencies, allegedly misusing the trust gained from his role overseeing all nuclear operations in SCANA's control.
The nuclear project was approved by the South Carolina Public Service Commission in February 2009, with customers receiving nine rate hikes for South Carolina Electric & Gas before the project was terminated after going over its $9 billion budget.
Project leaders shuttered the nuclear plant in 2017 after years of delays and unkept promises, leaving 6,000 without jobs. Westinghouse, the company building the nuclear reactors, filing for bankruptcy early that same year.
In 2019 a settlement agreement with Dominion Energy, customers are required to pay roughly a small percentage of the monthly bill over 20 years to cover $3 billion in cost, sources said.
Four former top-level executives pleaded guilty to charges related to the incident.
Kevin Marsh, former chief executive officer of SCANA, also pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Marsh was later released from prison on March 1, 2023, prior to serving a full sentence, according to a federal bureau of prisons search engine.
EDITOR'S NOTE: WACH's Al Johnson contributed to this report.