An Augusta man is facing a prison term, and possibly an irate mother-in-law, after pleading guilty to defrauding the Department of Energy out of more than $30,000.

Joseph Quinton, 51, appeared in federal court in Columbia on Wednesday and admitted he fraudulently obtained $31,732 from a per diem scheme offered to out-of-state workers at the Savannah River Site.

Quinton claimed that he was maintaining a residence in Florida when working at the DOE site. He submitted copies of a lease, certifications that he resided at the Florida address, as well as a handwritten receipt for payment of rent. In court, he admitted that these documents were false.

Quinton’s lie was caught when the resident of the Florida home was contacted by investigators. The resident, Quinton’s mother-in-law, said that she had been the sole occupant of the home for the past decade and that she was not aware of her son-in-law’s claims, according to testimony on Wednesday.

The defendant told the court that he admitted the charge as soon as it was brought to him by investigators. Adding that he signed a confession immediately.

Quinton could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the theft charge. He also faces a fine up to $250,000.

This plea is not the first federal case prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for charges related to fraud at SRS. A Graniteville man is expected to plead guilty to similar charges today with a hearing scheduled for 10:15 a.m.

In the past two years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has worked with DOE’s Office of Investigations to investigate schemes related to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. The previous investigations resulted in criminal convictions as well as civil settlements, and the recovery of more than $1 million, of which more than $700,000 was ARRA funding, according to that office.