FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sept. 22, 2011
FORMER UPPER BIG BRANCH MINE EMPLOYEE SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR FALSIFYING RECORDS AND MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS TO FEDERAL INVESTIGATORS
BECKLEY, W.Va. – A former Upper Big Branch Mine employee was sentenced today on two felonies in connection with a federal investigation at Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch (UBB) Mine. Thomas Harrah, 45, of Boone County, West Virginia, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Irene C. Berger.
“This sentence sends an important and unmistakable message: If you break the law and threaten the lives of coal miners, you should expect prison time,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. “Mine safety crimes are tremendously serious. Today’s result puts to rest any notion to the contrary. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who ignore the law and put our miners at risk.”
A two-count information was filed against Harrah in March, charging him with making a false statement on a form required to be maintained by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act and making false statements to a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a special investigator with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Joseph A. Main, Assistant Sectary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health stated, "Mine examinations are a critical element in assuring a safe work place and to prevent injuries, illnesses, and death. Falsification of mine examinations risks miner safety and MSHA will continue to aggressively pursue such cases.”
According to count one of the information, Harrah, while employed at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) Mine from January 2008 to August 2009, performed foreman's duties including signing pre-shift and on-shift examination reports, even though he was not qualified to do so. During that time period, Harrah did not have and knew he did not have a mine foreman's certificate and was therefore not qualified to perform these examinations. Harrah nonetheless signed his name and falsely listed a foreman’s certificate number that did not belong to him on pre-shift and on-shift examination reports.
The second count of the information revealed that on October 22, 2010, Harrah made false statements to a special agent with the FBI and a special investigator with MSHA when he was interviewed regarding his use of a false foreman's number. Harrah falsely stated that an officer of Performance Coal Company provided him with a phone number to call after he had taken and failed the mine foreman's examination. Harrah also falsely stated that when he called this number, the person on the phone provided him with a mine foreman's certification number. In fact, Harrah invented the foreman's certification number he used to sign the pre-shift and on-shift examination books at the Upper Big Branch mine.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Blaire Malkin handled the prosecution.
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