Coal Tattoo

Massey security chief indicted in UBB probe

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U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin here in Southern West Virginia just announced:

Hughie Elbert Stover, 60, of Clear Fork, Raleigh County, West Virginia, has been charged with two felonies in connection with the federal investigation of events at Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch Mine (UBB). Stover is Chief of Security at UBB and at least two other Massey operations. A federal grand jury indicted Stover last week on charges of making false statements to federal agents and obstructing a federal investigation. The indictment was unsealed today after Stover was arrested at his home.

I’ve posted a copy of the unsealed indictment here, and we’ve got a quick news story on the Gazette Web site here.

UPDATED:

The indictment charges Stover with two criminal counts:

False statements to federal agents

Stover is accused of falsely telling federal agents in January 2011 that Massey’s Performance Coal Co. had a policy dating back to 1999 that forbade security guards from giving advance notice of inspections. The indictment alleges that Stover “had himself directed and trained security guards … to give advance notice by announcing the presence of an MSHA inspector over” the mine radio.

— Concealment of documents in federal investigations —

Stover is accused of instructing an individual — whose identify was not revealed in the public filing — to dispose of mine security documents by placing them in a trash compactor near the main Upper Big Branch security gate. Federal officials have apparently recovered the documents as part of their investigation into the mine disaster, including an investigation of advance notices of MSHA inspections.

UPDATED 2:

Goodwin said:

The conduct charged by the grand jury — obstruction of justice and false statements to federal investigators — threatens our effort to find out what happened at Upper Big Branch. With 29 coal miners lost and thousands more waiting for answers about what caused the disaster, this inquiry is simply too important to tolerate any attempt to hinder it. My office will continue to devote every available resource to this most critical of cases.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division said:

The explosion at Upper Big Branch was a national tragedy, and this investigation is a priority for the Department of Justice. The indictment unsealed today shows our deep commitment to getting to the truth about what happened, including holding to account anyone who may impede this critical investigation.

Mr. Stover’s attorney, former U.S. Attorney Bill Wilmoth, declined comment.

UPDATED 3:

Here’s a statement from Massey Energy —

The Company takes this matter very seriously and is committed to cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s office. Indeed, the Company notified the U.S. Attorney’s office within hours of learning that documents had been disposed of and took immediate steps to recover documents and turn them over to the U.S. Attorney’s office. The matter remains under review and the Company has no further comment at this time.