By Rachel Dove
A federal investigation of an Arch Coal subsidiary has been confirmed by a corporate spokesman in the midst of rumors and speculation that are quickly spreading throughout the Tug Valley as to what the investigation includes and who it may affect.
The Daily News had received information from reliable sources of a possible billing and kickback scheme at a local coal-mining complex, and according to those close to the investigation, that is a portion of what is being looked at by federal investigators.
At least one employee at Arch Coal’s Mountain Laurel Complex has been fired since the investigation began, but a name hasn’t been released. More information is expected to be forthcoming following the Easter weekend.
According to reports received, several area mining and mine repair vendors have received federal target letters. A target letter is issued to inform an individual or a company that a federal prosecutor has gathered evidence linking them to a crime and that they are under federal investigation. A target letter is not an indictment from a grand jury, it simply places the person receiving it on notice that charges may be pending.
On Friday, Arch Coal official Kim Link confirmed that an investigation is underway but would not release specific details or identify the Arch mine involved. Link says that Arch Coal is deeply committed to maintaining the very highest ethical standards and in keeping with that commitment, the coal company requested the help of federal authorities.
FBI agents are currently investigating potential misconduct involving vendors and mine personnel in various parts of West Virginia, but the center of their work seems to be in the southern coal fields. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s office is leading the investigation and, according to Link, Arch Coal officials are giving their full cooperation.
Link said that since this is an ongoing investigation and no arrests have been made and no federal charges have yet been filed, no further comments are being made at this time to prevent the impediment of justice.
Several defendants recently have been sentenced to prison terms in federal court for crimes that were committed while owning mining contracting businesses.
Williamson Mayor Darin McCormick, who resigned from office on Monday, was charged in a federal information order with providing false statements to federal investigators as well as the Internal Revenue Service, for the part he played in assisting the contracting businesses to commit these offenses in his capacity as manager of the Williamson Branch of the Bank of Mingo. McCormick will be appearing in federal court in the near future to enter a plea to the felony charge against him.