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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mine Operator Sentenced To Prison For Obstructing MSHA Investigation

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – Elmer Fuller, of Bristol, Virginia, was sentenced in United States District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, for obstructing a Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation.

United States District Judge James P. Jones sentenced Fuller, 58, of Bristol, Virginia, to imprisonment for a term of three months.  In addition, Fuller was ordered to pay a fine of $3,000 and serve a two year term of supervised release upon his release from prison.  His company, A B & J Coal, was placed on probation for a term of one year and ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.

On June 8, 2009, MSHA inspectors determined that someone at A B & J Coal had illegally wired the electrical connections to a belt feeder without any ground fault protection. This situation created a risk of serious injury or death to any minor who came in contact with the feeder. During the investigation, Fuller, one of the owners of A B & J Coal, lied to the investigators about who had illegally wired the feeder.  His false statements substantially interfered with the investigation.

“The safety of coal miners is of the utmost importance,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “Interfering with an MSHA investigation is a serious matter.  We will continue to aggressively pursue those whose actions create unnecessary dangers to the lives of coal miners.”

Fuller also was sentenced to imprisonment for three months, to be served concurrently, for tax evasion.  As part of the plea agreement, he paid all back taxes owed prior to the sentencing hearing.  Fuller received a lower sentence than he would otherwise have received because he provided substantial assistance in the investigation of other criminal activity. 

Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.  The case was investigated by the Norton, Virginia, Office of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Bristol, Virginia, Office of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation.

Updated April 14, 2015