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Grand jury indicts ex-Massey CEO Don Blankenship

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy Corp., was indicted by a federal grand jury on four criminal charges stemming from the 2010 Upper Big Branch mining disaster that killed 29 miners.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s office announced the indictment Thursday. If convicted, Blankenship faces up to 31 years in prison.

Blankenship was charged on four counts: conspiracy to violate federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and securities fraud.

The indictment alleges that from Jan. 1, 2008, through April 9, 2010, Blankenship “conspired to commit and cause routine violations of mandatory federal mine safety standards” at the Upper Big Branch mine.

Authorities allege Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety inspectors following the April 5, 2010, disaster at the Raleigh County mine.

They say that prior to the disaster, Blankenship orchestrated a scheme in which front-gate guards would provide advance warning of federal mine safety inspections so that workers could conceal and cover up safety violations that routinely occurred at the mine.

“Blankenship knew that UBB was committing hundreds of safety-law violations every year and that he had the ability to prevent most of the violations that UBB was committing,” the indictment says.

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