Three former employees of Alpha Natural Resources and the president of a mine equipment company are facing charges in connection with a false billing scheme.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced late Monday that Edward Ellis Mullins, 41, of Peytona, Joey R. Phalin, 36, of Crab Orchard, Nicholas R. Coleman, 29, of Lester, and Donald Bryan Steele, 43, of Barboursville, have been charged by information with wire fraud and aiding and abetting.
Goodwin says Mullins, Phalin and Coleman are former local “sourcing agents” for Massey Energy legacy mines operated along WV Route 3 in Boone and Raleigh counties.
Sourcing agents were generally responsible for ordering goods and services for mining operations from Alpha suppliers.
Steele is the owner of M&S Hydraulics, a major Alpha supplier with offices in Barboursville and a rebuild shop in Switzer.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, an investigation revealed that Mullins, Phalin and Coleman participated in an illegal scheme to obtain goods for their own personal benefit.
The investigation further revealed that the three men, working in conjunction with Steele, hid numerous illegal transactions by creating false invoices. The false invoices, prepared by M&S, were intended to look like legitimate purchases, but were really used to provide cash, gifts and other things of value to Mullins, Phalin, Coleman and other Alpha employees.
The scheme lasted from at least February 2007 through at least June 2012.
Goodwin says Mullins, Phalin, Coleman and Steele have agreed to plead guilty and are cooperating with the ongoing investigation. All four men each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.