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Upper Big Branch Employee Pleads Guilty To Making False Statements

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES An employee of Massey Energy Co.'s (MEE) Upper Big Branch mine that collapsed in West Virginia last year pleaded guilty to making false statements on federal documents and to an FBI special agent. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 45-year-old Thomas Harrah admitted that he performed mine foreman's duties, including pre-shift and on-shift examination reports, even though he wasn't qualified as a foreman or an assistant foreman while knowing he wasn't qualified to perform the examinations. He used a false foreman's number more than 200 times even though he failed the mine foreman's examination, the Justice Department said. Harrah was interviewed in October of last year and told investigators he had failed the exam, but that an officer had given him a number to call, where someone provided him a foreman's certification number. Then less than a week later, he admitted in a subsequent interview with officials that the officer hadn't given him any number to call. Instead, he looked at the examination book that listed people who had passed the foreman's exam, changed a couple of digits on one of the numbers listed and began using the number as his own. Harrah faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. He will be sentenced Aug. 11. Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine collapsed after an explosion last April, killing 29 miners on the site. -By Nathan Becker, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2855; [email protected]

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