Indictment for Falsifying Safety Certificate

Thursday, March 24, 2011 @ 11:03 AM gHale


A former foreman at the Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia is now facing charges he falsified a document that certified he was qualified to perform his job.

The charges come as a result of an investigation into last April’s coal mine explosion that killed 29 mine workers and injured two others.

Thomas Harrah, 45, of Boone County, W. Va., is accused of falsifying the document that certified he was qualified to perform a foreman’s work and he was also charged with lying to federal agents about his fake certification.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Harrah performed pre-shift and on-shift safety examinations at Upper Big Branch from January 2008 to August 2009 even though he was not qualified to do that safety work.

Goodwin also said Harrah told federal investigators that someone at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal provided him with a false certification number. “In fact, Harrah invented the foreman’s certification number,” the statement said.

Both charges are felonies and each is punishable by as much as five years in prison and as much as $250,000 in fines.

Three weeks ago, officials indicted a Massey security chief for lying to investigators and attempting to dispose of evidence. Hughie Stover pleaded not guilty and faces a preliminary hearing April 5, the first anniversary of the Upper Big Branch explosion. A criminal trial will begin April 25.

Both sets of charges resulted from an ongoing criminal investigation into the nation’s worst mine disaster in 40 years.

“I want to be clear,” Goodwin said. “There will be real consequences if you falsify records, lie to federal agents, or otherwise attempt to obstruct this investigation.”



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