some text
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Investigators pored over half a million documents during a six-year investigation to find major medical fraud problems at three TVA nuclear plants and root out the man responsible - Walter Cardin.

In November a jury found Cardin guilty on eight of the 11 counts he faced.

On Thursday a federal judge sentenced him to six and a half years in prison.

The 55-year-old Metairie, La., man underreported or falsified medical reports on injuries workers suffered at the plants.

"Evidence showed that Cardin intentionally misrepresented or simply lied about how the injuries had occurred and how serious the injuries were," according to a release by U.S. Attorney Bill Killian.

During the trial, prosecutor Gregg Sullivan detailed 80 injuries, which included torn ligaments, broken bones, hernias, lacerations and other wounds not recorded by Cardin.

The incentive?

More than $2.5 million in "safety bonuses" paid to Shaw Group, a Louisiana-based company that helped Stone & Webster Construction, a Massachusetts-based company and the subcontractor supplying workers.

The companies have since paid back more than twice that amount under a civil agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

During the November trial, TVA audit director Curt Hudson testified that between 1,500 and 2,000 Stone & Webster employees worked at just one location during the 2003-06 period covered in the indictment.

Prosecutors linked false reports to Cardin at the Browns Ferry nuclear reactor in Athens, Ala.; Watts Bar in Spring City, Tenn.; and the Sequoyah plant in Soddy-Daisy.

Court documents referred to co-conspirators, including a doctor who assessed injured employees, but did not reveal names.

Cardin faced six to eight years after his conviction.

In February, he got scared.

Facing a sentencing hearing, he asked Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier to let him fire his attorney and find someone else to represent him, claiming he hadn't been in contact with Huntsville, Ala.-based attorney Bruce Gardner.

But Collier didn't find any legitimate reason to remove the lawyer. He told Cardin there were problems he could raise on appeal but that would have to happen after the sentencing.

"The court not only does not have a crystal ball; it does not possess a magic wand," Collier told Cardin at the time. "What's happened in the past is in the past."

Killian wrote in his release that Cardin's fraud caused more than financial damage:

"[Cardin's] practices affected the safety of the work environment of nuclear sites. They resulted in employees becoming more reluctant to report injuries, employers failing to address safety issues on work sites and employees working through medical conditions that created risks of additional injuries to themselves and others."

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.