CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 43-page four-count federal indictment of former Massey Energy president and CEO Don Blankenship portrays an operator obsessive about upping production at the cheapest cost. Federal prosecutors allege it was an attitude that led to the deadly explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.

MORE: Read the full indictment

The indictment, announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, alleges Blankenship knew about UBB’s safety problems and the practice of alerting supervisors underground when federal mine inspectors arrived at UBB for inspections. It’s also alleged he lied to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission about mine safety in the days after the April 5, 2010 explosion in an attempt to help Massey’s stock price.

Blankenship was charged with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud.

The mix of metallurgical coal that came from the UBB centered group of mines made millions for Blankenship from Jan. 1, 2008, to April 10, 2010, according to the indictment. In 2009, the group of mines generated $331 million, making up 14 percent percent of Massey’s $2.3 billion in revenue that year. The UBB mines were projected to bring in $432 million in 2010, 16 percent of all Massey revenue. The longwall section at UBB, where the explosion occurred, could produce $600,000 a day.

The indictment alleges Blankenship was driven by the numbers and in doing so ignored dozens of safety violations at UBB and covered up others. Federal prosecutors said from April 3, 2009, to April 5, 2010, Blankenship received 249 daily safety violation reports from the UBB mines but did very little to correct the problems.

Instead, according to the indictment, Blankenship continued to push the a UBB executive for more production. In a March 19, 2009 memo Blankenship wrote “UBB’s miner sections are a mitigated [sic] disaster.” That same month the executive heard from an angry Blankenship who told him, “You have a kid to feed. Do your job.”

The indictment alleges Blankenship knew UBB had coal dust and ventilation problems, two things federal investigators said enhanced the UBB explosion, but he ignored them. According to the indictment:

“Blankenship’s imposition and aggressive enforcement of coal-production quotas that deprived UBB’s coal miners of the time they needed to construct and maintain ventilation control structures, and that forced them to operate even where air quantities were below legal minimums; Blankenship’s direction, addressed below, not to construct certain ventilation controls that would produce more reliable airflow because constructing them diverted time from coal production; and Blankenship’s denial, also addressed below, of a request to construct an airshaft at UBB that would have increased airflow to areas of the mine where it was often below the legal minimum.”

Blankenship, according to prosecutors, would at times receive hourly reports on UBB’s production and in some cases was even faxed the hourly reports at home during the weekends.

The indictment also details the conspiracy of how underground supervisors at UBB were alerted that a federal mine inspector was on site for a ‘surprise’ inspection. The word would first come from the front gate, passed to the mine entrance and then by telephone to underground supervisors who would instruct workers to cover up safety violations. In some cases, because of the size of UBB, it would take investigators two hours to reach certain sections of the mine.

In the days after the UBB explosion, while Massey’s stock price was plummeting, prosecutors allege Blankenship worked with a public relations firm on a statement to give to the SEC stating the company did “not condone any violation of MSHA regulations” and “we [Massey] strive to be in compliance with all regulations at all times.” Prosecutors allege Blankenship knew the statement was false and fraudulent, committing securities fraud.

If convicted on all four counts, Blankenship could receive a maximum of 31 years in prison. He is scheduled to have an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Beckley Federal Court in the near future.

The investigation in the aftermath of the UBB tragedy has already led to four convictions form the office of U.S. Attorney Goodwin.

“We’re going to take this investigation wherever it leads to whomever it leads,” Goodwin said following the Sept. 2013 sentencing of former Massey executive David Hughart. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for impeding MSHA and taking part in the conspiracy to alert workers of the pending inspections.

Massey Energy was purchased by Alpha Natural Resources months after the UBB tragedy. Alpha settled with the federal government for $209 million and agreed to establish a mine safety academy. The academy opened last year in Boone County.

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Comments

  • Paul Kelley

    When I saw the politicians in Ferguson demand swift prosecution before knowing what happened I thought of Big Branch; where all of our democratic politicians did the same before they knew what happened. I believe the claims that the inspectors forced the coal operators to change their ventilation plan in away that reduced the ventilation. I also believe that what happened was a tragic accident due to a large amount of methane gas which entered into the mine in a short period of time. I also believe that no one can tell you how much coal dust was present before the explosion, as it was very deep following the explosion. If this would have been a union mines the company would likely have been treated as victims as well.

  • Mr.P

    GOT HIM!!

  • susanf1218

    The word you meant to use was allude. Elude means to evade, which in Blankenship's case, would be appropriate.

  • Debbie

    This is no surprise, yet many people continue to look up to CEOs who do this to employees and the environment all the time. We need to support those who do the right tbings and expose those who don't. We are killing people and ruining the Earth by acting as if it is necessary to ignore facts in order to have what we "want". Why aren't we informing people of the facts instead of allowing the ultra-rich to play games with workers?

  • Stephen

    Justice recently began paying a fraction of some of his fines (not defending him by any stretch of the imagination) at the rate of $100K/month:
    http://www.npr.org/2014/11/12/363058646/coal-mines-keep-operating-despite-injuries-violations-and-millions-in-fines

  • Big Hooptie

    Thank you for proving my point.

    I didn't to say or even elude to Blankenship being innocent.

    However, he is innocent until proven guilty.

    If you read the comments to this article you would understand my comment because many are concluding guilt based on his economic status.

  • Aaron

    That's not true. Blankenship spent $3 million on 'for the sake of the children' psc to defeat McGraw.

    All Blankenship's money did was even the playing field as trial lawyers and labor spent $3 million supporting McGraw.

    On even ground, Benjamin won handily.

  • Bob Melphis

    All That Refuse To See
    Your ears shut wide eyes up tight
    a menagerie sits in absent light
    Time and reason are out of sight
    stonecold now is courage's might!
    Your eyes embrace a newfound cave
    even logic can not your mind save
    in blindness you are now a slave
    treading a path to shallow grave!
    Your screams raise no great alarm
    dead plants harvest on your farm
    No more shall love be your charm
    chained legs match each dead arm!
    Your last days filled with cries
    fruits set onto your many lies
    Dark clouds moan in your skies
    Heart rots as soul slowly dies!
    Your death was an incoming tide
    bled from arrogant false pride
    Fait accompli no man can hide
    none succeed, many have tried!

    Robert Lindley

  • WV Guru

    Another example of the Obama, Holder, and Mine Workers Union Triangle misusing their authority to pillory an opponent. Booth Goodwin is probably erasing emails from his boss now.

  • Jonus Grumby

    Generations of democrat rule have gotten us where?

  • The Indictment

    I just read the 43 page indictment. Wow...

  • Wow

    Not saying I agree or disagree with your post. I post under Wow and did not make this post.

  • Wow

    Despite your Molon Labe tag you don't appear to be all that defiant. Yes, if the CEO sets out deliberately to send out bacterial laden turkeys in total disregard of human health and to enhance profits he can be charged with murder. Did you really think otherwise? You need to become more acquainted with Blankenship's tactics to get what he wanted.

  • Coal?

    Hahaha!! That might be the funniest joke posted on here ever!! He has done nothing but subtract from the greater good of the state. He is a bigoted, ignorant, insensitive, disrespectful, immoral & pretentious gasbag

  • Molon Labe

    Why is it a crime to have money?

  • Molon Labe

    *politics

  • cutty77

    This ain't Don's first Rodeo. This Deal ain't over untill its Over.

  • Molon Labe

    +1

  • Molon Labe

    I believe you're right with this statement. I'm not saying DB is innocent or guilty, but this is absolutely about policitcs.

    DB has been burned at the stake for years before UBB and after. This article goes into detail about DB wanting production updates, when is this a crime? What company in the US does not want more production when your product is what keeps the company afloat. Show me a hazard and safety free mine (I expect the pro unions to claim all union mines are).

    My question is where is the line drawn? DB is the CEO so are all CEO's held liable for company actions? What if Tyson is behind quota for the holidays and produces a bad batch of turkeys for Thanksgiving, people get sick, some die, will there CEO be charged with murder?

  • Doug Throttle

    That is a nice picture of Don. He has done a lot for WV and it's citizens

  • Coal?

    I think that someone who is unable to utilize proper punctuation, particularly commas, is in no position to pass judgment upon the academic standing of the State. The use of the word "and" would have been proper in between the last two words of your indefensible post. A comma there is improper.

    More importantly, I would love to hear your defense of Don Blankenship. Please enlighten us.

  • Big Hooptie

    I think a lot of the comments to this story show the ignorance and rush-to-judgement mentality that has kept this state from being successful, both economically, academically.

  • Coal?

    The State of West Virginia has long known that this POS is a criminal and we can all only hope, for the good of the state (and, if i could, for the sake of the kids) that POS Blankenship is put away to rot in a cell for the rest of this time here on Earth. Sadly, he will, if he is even found guilty or pleas, probably serve his term out in some comfortable pampered prison. Either way, great to see him indicted. Hopefully he will, to the extent possible, cease destroying our State and simply destroy himself.

  • just sayin

    Jim N you got that WV fatalistic attitude that gives up and moves WV down the path of least resistance.

  • Bill

    This all politics if he had been a democrat there wouldn't be any charges.

  • just sayin

    So let's fill both houses with Republicans and Blankenship's cohorts. Good job WV voters you continue to be easily manipulated.

  • bill

    he deserves the full 31 yrs and not at a resort prison

  • Woodchuck

    Where was msha? If this was so bad there must be more people who turned their heads?

    Years of lack of oversight by msha?

  • Chef Camille

    Booth couldn't find his backside with two hands and a flashlight. Blankenship was a pig probably still is a pig. His swill will pollute a few other well deserving critters who drank from it. But in all the the comments which is deserving nary a mention of the brave people who lost their lives. Coming from a family with whose members still mine coal Blankenship's punishment will be meted out by a higher authority. Goodwin is not capable of leading this courtroom circus.

  • Jim N Charleston

    Dawg, Don is s real life version of JR Ewing. Like JR, Death will be the only deal he won't win.

    Blankenship is the Teflon Don, nothing sticks. The government can indict a ham sandwich. Convicting one is harder.

    All I got
    I'm Jim N 2 Hunting & it's colder than a well diggers @$$
    L8

  • Mr.P

    All coal companies alert underground foreman when a mine inspector is on the property this has been going on for yrs and to this day is still happening,M.S.H.A. should be indicted too they knew about the conditions at UBB,but yet they continued to let the mine operate until the explosion.

  • Fred

    Jim Justice's mines are also racking up millions of dollars in fines due to failure to comply with safety regulations. Why is he a West Virginia hero? Only because he hasn't killed anyone local yet?

  • Hop'sHip

    Just like you, Jim, he probably believes he is smarter than everyone else and maybe, like someday you may learn, that is a delusion,

  • Randy

    Really amazing when you consider that he and Massey owners would still be rich beyond most people's wildest dreams if they had done it by the book and kept it safe.

  • Really

    This man has to much money. He brought a Supreme Court judge, old Brent Benjamin. What about old crook Joe Main? He has to many friends in high places.

  • Normin Alaskerette

    I seem to recall Joe Manchin flying on Massey's plane from Florida to the UBB tragedy site and then hanging out together for days; lots of time to chat with the then-Governor. Hope Don kept his notes; hope even more he shares them. Goodwin can kill a few birds with a stone here -- putting Blankenship behind bars, flushing Manchin out of state politics, and clearing the way for his own gubernatorial ambitions. This could be fun.

  • Randy

    80 years ago the union was fighting for what was right. And 40 and 50 years ago union miners were dying because coal companies cared more about profit than keeping miners alive. The union might have become a disgrace in the last 30 years, but we see what happened when Blankenship and Massey got to do things on their terms.

  • william

    Rich Men can just make things go away!

  • alice dempsey

    He won't get no significant time. I know someo b en who cheated compensation and the government out of millions. He got 30th months. This system is a joke

  • Wow

    Not a chance, no one wants near this p.o.s.
    Use another place to cry about the election. You have to look back farther than Capito and Jenkins to find the who was in Don's pocket.

  • Active brain

    Anyone who works in a hazardous job for a company with a CEO should know that somewhere between himself and that CEO someone stops caring about your life. They only care about you as much as government regulation requires them to care. To think otherwise is NOT wise. Is Mr Blankenship guilty? I don't know. But if he is, FRY HIM! Make him a poster child for any CEO that tries to better their bottom line by bending the regulations fought for by the people they are required to care for.

  • northforkfisher

    I hope that if he gets convicted that they send him to Leavenworth and not some club fed.

  • Fentanyl Bomb

    susanf1218, you are the the Queen of the the Stew-birds. If this were a WVU article, I would most likely keep my distance.

    However, this is a WV article and I believe we are in some agreement.

    "Corporations are people."

    Massey has a documented history of putting production above safety. These are the chickens coming home to roost that they thought had been been made homeless by selling to another entity.

    Good on all the Federal prosecutors. Stay at it.

    Unfortunate that it was not the murder of the men themselves that precipitated this indictment. It was the follow-up drop of the shareholders stakes that pressed the issue.

    Never forget.

    The money will always be more important than the miner.

    You are not too pretty or rich for jail, Blankenship.

    You are just too fat and soft.

    Enjoy!

  • susanf1218

    Great news! Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy! And it has been a long time coming! Will be glad to see that smirk wiped off his smug face. But I can't believe the comments of the clowns on here who are DEFENDING this jerk!! I guess coal matters more than men's lives, at least to some people.

  • arp

    Have you ever heard of "innocent until proven guilty?"

  • WV Common Tater

    Interesting. However, Arch Coal wasn't mentioned as a non-payer.

  • adk

    You are a dumb liberal demo I bet.

  • WV Common Tater

    The whole intent of this indictment is to break Blankenship. The trial will end in an acquittal as no one was forced to work under the alleged conditions and it is a CEO's duty to produce. As to the warnings about inspectors, no one lets anyone into their house without some observance. Also, there is a lot of evidence that the post explosion investigation was faulty and that will produce more words. The trial will keep a lot of lawyers busy and make them richer over a lot of words and produce no results.

  • Old miner

    That couldbe true

  • Old miner

    He always said if they. Came after him he would take down several other people with him wonder who ?

  • Dream On

    The rats will be bailing the ship on this one. How about Joe Main and Brent Benjamin? How about all the other crooks who took dirty money from this bum. He will never get one day in jail. Money buys justice not only in WV but in America. Justice for all is just a catch phrase. This is a waste of taxpayers money. Another Goodwin trying to make a name for themselves.

  • ut oh

    They will show up in informations, admitting guilt and testify against Don.

  • Old miner

    Well. Never thought this would never happen , but what about the his Boys that had there fingers on all the buttons at UBB ( C B ) and ( J W. ). .?.?

  • cutty77

    Booth Goodwin wants to be Governor of West Virginia,and I'm sure everybody knows what party he is a part of.

  • Shadow

    It would be informative if the location of the Grand Jury was published. From what I have seen written about this subject, a change in venue will be required for a fair trial.

  • Herd1

    Justice hopefully will now finally be served. Someone did some singing. Book 'em, Danno!

  • Brian

    Toughen up, Jim! If you want the big one, you have to sacrifice.

    And I agree. He's smarter than anyone who has ever gone up against him, but I don't know if he'll survive this. Massey dumped him, thus nutting his position in the coal industry. He doesn't have the muscle anymore.

  • James

    Meant here

  • James

    I'm just hear to see who is going to blame it in Obama

  • WVU 74

    May 29, 2009 -- Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee announced his resignation from the Board of Massey Energy. Gee served 9 years on the Massey Energy Board of Directors.

  • Stupid Hillbillies

    Booth "m0r0n's hand up his rear" Goodwin fires the next salvo in the m0r0n's War on Coal.

    Wonder who the co-conspirators are? After all it does require two to play in a conspiracy, and like one remark below stated, this will have a change in venue due to the malicious assaults the hillbillies have maliciously been making.

  • Daniel

    So, arp, it doesn't matter to you that Mr. Blankenship maybe, just maybe, may be guilty of a crime in this matter?

  • richard

    Bla, bla, bla, liberal media, bla, Obama, bla, bla, liberals, bla, bla, democrats, bla, left wing media, bla, bla, war on coal, bla bla, anti business democrat, bla, Obama, bla, bla.........

  • Aaron

    Personally, I think he should share a cell with every negligent MSHA official, particularly those who were remiss in sending out shutdown notices for pattern of violations, up to and including Joe Main.

    Government officials will never go after government officials though, no matter how complicit they are the tragedy at UBB.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    Christmas has come early for all of West Virginia . Thank you Booth Goodwin !

  • The bookman

    If in fact Goodwin has his case in order against Blankenship, and I would bet the house he has it in spades, then I would love to be present when they take him into custody. If not, I can always watch this:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iRdTetA_Dqo

  • sammy

    I only hope that justice will proceed without interference from politicians. This man deserves to be behind bars and to be stripped of all the money he has banked in off shore accounts.

  • Jim N Charleston

    He'll walk. He is smarter than anyone involved in his prosecution working for the FEDS

    All I got
    I'm Jim N 2 Deer Hunting right now & its COLD
    L8

  • WV FAN

    What a joke? This is America nothing happens to CEO's here... mark my words, this is a waist of time to even talk about this CEO being indicted ...

    Don Blankenship likes West Virginians & West Virginia & why not?

  • arp

    The comments here are proof he could not get a fair trial in West Virginia. The left wing media long ago accused him, tried him and condemned him. He offended them when he took on the corrupt, anti-business Democrat machine and the unions like no one else had dared to do in 80 years.

  • Mountaineer

    FINALLY This SCUM Gets what he deserves. Hope You like Penis, and Prison Food Don.

  • richard

    Good!!! Couldn't happen to a better crook.
    Maybe Capito and Jenkins can help you. After all, you helped elect them.

  • Jim Slade

    This report will surprise many:

    http://www.npr.org/2014/11/12/363058646/coal-mines-keep-operating-despite-injuries-violations-and-millions-in-fines

  • GregG

    It is to bad we are not allowed to use high limbs and short ropes, this is what this scum should be swinging from.

  • Matt T.

    Pucker up Don. Hopefully justice will be served!

  • the flying dutchman

    did you ever think you would see this day? knowing goodwin, as a general rule he does not oftenfire blanks...