According to United States Attorney Booth Goodwin, who filed several charges in the U.S. District Court in June, both Ronald Barnette and Gary Griffith have pleaded guilty to making a materially false statement in a federal matter. The men entered guilty pleas before United States District Judge Thomas Johnston on July 14, and are scheduled to be sentenced on October 20 in Charleston.
Barnette and Griffith each face up to five years in prison.
Barnette, who owned and operated rebuild group Mining Repair Specialist, admitted to lying about paying kickbacks to the general manager of Arch Coal’s Mountain Laurel mining complex from 2009 through sometime in 2010.
Specifically, he admitted that he paid approximately $300,000 in kickbacks to a high-level Arch employee, identified in court documents as General Manager David Runyon, so that Runyon would continue hiring Barnette’s company to do rebuild work. Barnette further admitted that he lied to agents regarding paying cash kickbacks.
When asked by Internal Revenue Service agents, along with investigators from the West Virginia State Police, whether he had ever paid cash kickbacks to Runyon, Barnette falsely stated that he did not.
He has agreed to forfeit $400,000 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with the kickback scheme.
Griffith, the former maintenance manager at Mountain Laurel, has admitted to lying about receiving kickbacks as an Arch Coal employee. In fact, he has already admitted that, since 2002, he received cash kickbacks in the amount of at least $250,000 on behalf of himself and Runyon from an individual associated with the North American Rebuild Co.; NARCO provided shuttle cars to Arch Coal’s Ben Creek mine and the Mountain Laurel mining complex.
Griffith said that an individual, on behalf of NARCO, paid kickbacks to Griffith and Runyon for each shuttle car ordered at the mines. When Griffith was asked by federal agents about receiving kickbacks either personally or on behalf of Runyon, he denied it.
Griffith has agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution to Arch in connection with the kickback scheme.
On May 31, as the charges were first announced, Arch Coal officials said in a statement that the agency was quick to respond to the issue.
“While it was extremely disappointing to find that former employees had failed to live up to our trust in them, we are pleased and relieved to have this issue behind us,” the company said.
The guilty pleas both stem from an investigation being conducted by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, and the WVSP. Assistant United States Attorney Meredith George Thomas is in charge of the prosecution.