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Ex-W.Va. Miner Sentenced For Fake Credentials

Thu, 09/22/2011 - 9:17am

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- A former Massey Energy employee was sentenced Thursday to 10 months in prison for faking a foreman's license and lying to federal authorities during an investigation of a deadly explosion at the company's Upper Big Branch mine.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger also ordered Thomas Harrah, 45, of Seth to serve threes of supervised release after he completes the prison term.

"This sentence sends an important and unmistakable message: If you break the law and threaten the lives of coal miners, you should expect prison time," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a news release. "Mine safety crimes are tremendously serious. Today's result puts to rest any notion to the contrary. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who ignore the law and put our miners at risk."

Harrah had pleaded guilty in April to making a false statement on a federal mine safety inspection document. He also admitted to lying to FBI and Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators.

Harrah was accused of conducting safety examinations at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in 2008 and 2009 while using a phony state mine foreman's certification number.

Harrah didn't work at the mine at the time of the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 miners. Prosecutors have said his crimes were uncovered as part of an investigation of the explosion.

"Mine examinations are a critical element in assuring a safe work place and to prevent injuries, illnesses, and death. Falsification of mine examinations risks miner safety and MSHA will continue to aggressively pursue such cases," MSHA chief Joe Main said in the news release.

Alpha Natural Resources acquired Massey in June.

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