Men Admit Lying in Coal Kickback Scam

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA — Ronald Barnette, 53, of Holden, West Virginia, and Gary Griffith, 62, of Oceana, West Virginia, both have pleaded guilty to making a materially false statement in a federal matter, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced. Barnette and Griffith now each face up to five years in prison. Barnette admitted to lying about paying kickbacks to the general manager of Arch Coal’s Mountain Laurel mining complex, located in Logan County, West Virginia, while Griffith admitted to lying about receiving kickbacks as an employee of Arch Coal.

Barnette owned and operated Mining Repair Specialist Inc., which did rebuild work on miners and bolters at the Mountain Laurel complex for several years. From 2009 through sometime in 2010, Barnette admitted that he paid approximately $300,000 in kickbacks to a high level Arch employee, who is identified in other court documents as mine general manager David Runyon, so that Runyon would continue hiring Barnette’s company to do rebuild work at the mine. Barnette further admitted that he lied to agents regarding paying cash kickbacks. When asked by Internal Revenue Service agents and investigators from the West Virginia State Police whether Barnette had ever paid cash kickbacks to Runyon, Barnette falsely stated that he did not.

Barnette has agreed to forfeit $400,000 to the FBI in connection with the kickback scheme.

Griffith, the former maintenance manager at Mountain Laurel, admitted that since 2002 he received cash kickbacks in the amount of at least $250,000 on behalf of himself and Runyon from an individual associated with the North American Rebuild Company Inc. NARCO provided shuttle cars to Arch Coal’s Ben Creek mine and the Mountain Laurel mining complex. Griffith admitted that an individual, on behalf of NARCO, paid kickbacks to Griffith and Runyon for each shuttle car ordered at the mines. When Griffith was asked by federal agents about receiving kickbacks either personally or on behalf of Runyon, he denied it.

Griffith has agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution to Arch Coal in connection with the kickback scheme.

Barnette and Griffith entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston.

The guilty pleas stem from an investigation being conducted by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the WVSP. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith George Thomas is in charge of the prosecution.

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