By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A Mercer County man pleaded guilty Monday to a federal charge of falsifying safety reports at four southern West Virginia mining operations.
Craig Belcher, 36, of Bluefield, pleaded guilty to providing a false statement, representation and certification in a Mine Safety and Health Administration document, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.
Belcher faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 2, 2013 by Senior United States District Judge David A. Faber.
Goodwin said Belcher was hired in January 2009 to work as an underground mine foreman at Spartan Mining Company’s Road Fork No. 51 mine in Wyoming County. Also in February 2009, Goodwin said Belcher was hired to perform mine foreman duties at Frasure Creek’s Mine No. 15 located in Fayette County. Goodwin said Belcher also performed similar foreman duties in May 2009 at Pay Car’s Mine No. 58 in McDowell County, and in July 2010 at Double Bonus’s Mine No. 65 in Wyoming County.
Between January 27, 2009 and July 13, 2010, Goodwin said Belcher signed pre-shift and on-shift reports which indicated that he had properly examined particular sections at each mine. Goodwin said Belcher was not certified as a foreman when he completed the mine reports. Goodwin said Belcher also falsified information on pre-shift and on-shift reports by using foreman’s numbers that did not belong to him.
The investigation was conducted by MSHA. Assistant United States Attorney Blaire Malkin is in charge of the prosecution.
Belcher was named in a four-count federal indictment earlier this year alleging that he made false statements, representations, and certification in MSHA documents at four different coal mines in southern West Virginia.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org