The head of security operations for Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine has been arrested for destroying records related to the criminal investigation into the April 5, 2010 blast that killed 29 miners and injured two others.
An indictment unsealed today charges Hughie Elbert Stover with making false statements to the FBI and MSHA special investigators, and destroying records related to the investigation on Jan. 21, 2011.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, the indictment was unsealed today and Stover was arrested at his home.
According to the first count in the indictment, employees and contractors were interviewed about the mine operator’s policy and practices of notifying mine employees when MSHA inspectors arrived at Upper Big Branch Mine. Agents specifically asked Stover about making these announcements over two radio channels that were used by the security guards. One channel was known as the “security channel,” and the second channel was the “Montcoal channel.” Transmissions on the “Montcoal channel” could be heard by employees working in the Upper Big Branch Mine office.
Stover told the FBI and MSHA investigators that he never informed any employee that MSHA was on the premises, and that the company had a practice and policy dating back to 1999 that forbade security guards from giving advanced notice by prohibiting the announcement of the presence of mine inspectors. In addition, Stover told the investigators that he would have fired any security guard who did not abide by the practice and policy.
However, the indictment claims that Stover “had himself directed and trained security guards … to give advance notice by announcing the presence of MSHA inspectors over the Montcoal channel.”
The second count of the indictment charges Stover with concealing, covering-up, mutilating and trying to destroy destroying evidence related to the investigation.
According to the indictment, in January, Stover directed a “known person” to sort through documents kept in a house known as the “Barracks” near the main security gate at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Stover then told this person to dispose of thousands of security-related documents in the trash compactor. The indictment claims that Stover did this “with the intent to impede, obstruct and influence the investigation … by having the documents disposed of and otherwise destroyed.
“The conduct charged by the grand jury