Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship was indicted on four federal charges Thursday. The charges stem from a years-long investigation led by the FBI and the United States Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General into an April 5, 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine owned by Massey that killed 29 miners.
According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office, the indictment alleges that from about January 1, 2008 to April 9, 2010 Blankenship "conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards" at the mine.
The indictment from the U.S. State Attorney Office in West Virginia's Southern District charges Blankenship with:
- Conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards,
- Conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials,
- Making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),
- And securities fraud.
The four counts charged carry a maximum penalty of 31 years of imprisonment, according to the release from Goodwin's office. Goodwin, Counsel Steve Ruby, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabriele Wohl are handling the prosecution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of West Virginia’s Southern District has been moving up the Massey ladder since the investigation began. Former Upper Big Branch superintendent Gary May cooperated with prosecutors and admitted in March 2012 to defrauding the government by bridging methane monitors and falsifying documents. Last year, former President of once-Massey owned White Buck Coal Company, David Hughart admitted to working with others to ensure that his mine and others, owned by Massey, would have advance warnings of federal inspectors.
As The Charleston Gazette's Ken Ward reports, Blankenship wrote in a May 2013 blog post: "If they put me behind bars ... it will be political.”
Roughly an hour before news of the indictment was breaking, Blankenship tweeted this:
The coal industry knows Main is not qualified to head MSHA. Lardieri takes Main to task. See MAIN at http://t.co/0MUSoZ2t3D
— Don Blankenship (@DonBlankenship) November 13, 2014
You can view a full copy of the indictment here: