Two plead guilty to lying to federal agents probing Mountain Lau - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Two plead guilty to lying to federal agents probing Mountain Laurel mining complex kickback scheme

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A man who paid kickbacks to the general manager of Arch Coal’s Mountain Laurel mining complex and another who accepted them each pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.

Ronald Barnette, 53, of Holden, West Virginia, and Gary Griffith, 62, of Oceana, West Virginia, each face up to five years in prison after admitting to making a materially false statement in a federal investigation.

Barnette, owner of Mining Repair Specialist Inc., admitted to lying about paying kickbacks to the Mountain Laurel general manager, while Griffith admitted he lied about receiving kickbacks.

Barnette’s company did rebuild work on miners and bolters at the Mountain Laurel complex for several years, Goodwin said. From 2009 through sometime in 2010, Barnette admitted he paid about $300,000 in kickbacks to a high level Arch employee so that his company would continue to get the contracts, then lied about it to agents investigating the scheme.

He has agreed to forfeit $400,000 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in connection with the kickback scheme.

Griffith, the former maintenance manager at Mountain Laurel, admitted that since 2002 he accepted cash kickbacks of at least $250,000 the North American Rebuild Company, Inc. for himself and another high level Arch employee.

NARCO provided shuttle cars to Arch Coal’s Ben Creek mine and the Mountain Laurel mining complex and Griffith admitted receiving a kickback for each shuttle car ordered at the mines. When Griffith was asked by federal agents about receiving kickbacks, he denied it.

Griffith has agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution to Arch Coal, Inc., in connection with the kickback scheme.

Barnette and Griffith entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston. Both are scheduled for sentencing Oct. 20 in Charleston.