Former Massey Executive Pleads Guilty To Federal Mine Safety Charges
Longtime Massey division president impeded federal mine inspectors and violated mine safety laws
BECKLEY, W. Va. – U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today announced that a longtime Massey Energy Company executive pleaded guilty to two federal crimes in connection with an ongoing investigation of Massey. David Hughart, 53, of Crab Orchard, West Virginia, admitted that he conspired to impede the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and conspired to violate mine health and safety laws. Hughart pleaded guilty to the charges today in federal district court in Beckley, W.Va. Hughart is the former president of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group and is the highest-ranking official charged to date in an ongoing federal investigation.
“Mine safety and health laws are not optional," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "This prosecution reiterates the message that mine safety violations are very serious crimes."
Hughart admitted that he and others at Massey conspired to violate health and safety laws and concealed those violations by warning mining operations when MSHA inspectors were arriving to conduct mine inspections.
Hughart is believed to be the highest-ranking mine official ever convicted of conspiracy to impede MSHA or conspiracy to violate mine health and safety standards.
Coal mines in the United States are subject to an array of mandatory federal mine health and safety standards designed to prevent dangers such as explosions, roof collapses, and fires. MSHA conducts frequent, unannounced mine inspections to monitor compliance with those requirements. When MSHA inspectors find violations of health and safety requirements, mine owners are subject to monetary penalties and, in some cases, production shutdowns until violations are corrected.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division. Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., which acquired Massey’s operations in a June 2011 merger, is continuing to cooperate with the investigation.
Hughart faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine when he is sentenced on June 25, 2013 by United States District Judge Irene C. Berger.
Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby is handling the prosecution.