Chief of Security at W. Va. Mine Charged With Lying to FBI and Destroying Documents

By Allan Lengel

The chief of security at the Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia where 29 people died last April  in an explosion, was arrested Monday for obstructing the investigation into the disaster by allegedly lying to the FBI and destroying documents.

The Justice Department said Elbert Stover, 60, of Clear Fork, W. Va., was indicted on charges of making false statements to an FBI agent and a special investigator for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Authorities said agent were investigating allegations that security guards at the mine routinely notified mine personnel when MHSA inspectors arrived at the mine in Montcoal, W. Va.

Authorities said Stover falsely denied that such a practice existed and falsely told the agents that he would have fired any security guard who provided such advance notice. But in reality, authorities alleged, Stover himself instructed UBB security guards to notify mine personnel whenever MSHA inspectors arrived at the mine.

Authorities also alleged also alleged Stover “recently caused a person known to the grand jury to dispose of thousands of pages of security-related documents stored in a Massey building near the UBB mine, with the intent to impede the federal investigation.”

“The conduct charged by the grand jury—obstruction of justice and false statements to federal investigators—threatens our effort to find out what happened at Upper Big Branch,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a statement. “With 29 coal miners lost and thousands more waiting for answers about what caused the disaster, this inquiry is simply too important to tolerate any attempt to hinder it.”

“The explosion at Upper Big Branch was a national tragedy, and this investigation is a priority for the Department of Justice,” added Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division in a stsatement.

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