BECKLEY – United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that a longtime Massey Energy Company executive was sentenced to 42 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release for two federal crimes in connection with an ongoing investigation of practices at Massey.
David Hughart, 54, of Crab Orchard, West Virginia, is the former president of Massey’s Green Valley Resource Group and the highest-ranking official to be convicted in the ongoing federal investigation. Hughart’s sentence is one year above the top of federal advisory guidelines range.
Hughart previously pleaded guilty in February to two federal charges: conspiracy to impede the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and conspiracy to violate mine health and safety laws.
“Mine safety laws exist to protect the health and safety of coal miners. When those laws are broken, miners’ lives are put in danger. That’s absolutely intolerable,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “This prosecution reiterates the message that mine safety laws are never, ever optional.”
Hughart admitted that he and others at Massey conspired to violate health and safety laws and to conceal those violations by warning mining operations when MSHA inspectors were arriving to conduct mine inspections.
Hughart is 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’s Criminal Investigation arm.
Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., which acquired Massey’s operations in a June 2011 merger, is continuing to cooperate with the investigation.
The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Irene C. Berger in federal district court in Beckley.
Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby handled the prosecution.