You are hereCharleston Gazette: Longtime Massey official cooperating as Upper Big Branch probe widens

Charleston Gazette: Longtime Massey official cooperating as Upper Big Branch probe widens

-By Ken Ward Jr.

November 28, 2012- CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A longtime Massey Energy executive has agreed to cooperate with investigators as they continue to try to work their way up the corporate ladder in their probe of the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in nearly 40 years, federal prosecutors revealed Wednesday.
Former Massey official David C. Hughart will plead guilty to two criminal charges and provide testimony about a decade-long conspiracy to defy safety laws and hide the resulting conditions from government inspectors.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said that Hughart plotted with other company officials to routinely violate ventilation and dust-control standards at Massey mines and to cover up those infractions.

In an interview, Goodwin called the plea agreement with Hughart "a significant step" in an ongoing investigation that began with the deaths of 29 miners at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine and has expanded into a broader examination of the former coal giant's safety practices.

"We are digging deeper and moving forward," Goodwin said.

The charges against Hughart target alleged crimes that occurred between 2000 and 2010 at Massey's White Buck operations in Nicholas County, where two mid-level foremen and a Massey operating subsidiary were prosecuted five years ago for criminal safety violations.

But in new court documents, Goodwin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby allege a broader conspiracy by as-yet unnamed "directors, officers, and agents" of Massey operating companies to put coal production ahead of worker safety and health at "other coal mines owned by Massey."

It is the first time in their Upper Big Branch probe that prosecutors have alleged Massey officials engaged in a scheme that went beyond the Raleigh County mine that exploded on April 5, 2010.



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