EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSPLACED ON LEAVE
from Eyewitness News Online
Gary May Faces Conspiracy Allegations In Federal Information
Reported by: Kennie Bass
Videographer: Brad Rice
Web Producer: Kennie Bass, Bethany Simmons
Reported: Feb. 22, 2012 8:38 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 23, 2012 11:50 AM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The man who is now facing federal charges over UBB mine, has been placed on administrative leave.
As Eyewitness News reported Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charleston filed charges against Gary May. May was the Superintendent of the Upper Big Branch mine.
He is also the highest ranking Massey employee to be charged.
Eyewitness News is told that the company that now owns Massey, Alpha Natural Resources, says though Alpha was not operator of the mine at the time of the accident, the company has decided to place May on leave.
Federal investigators say Massey Energy mine superintendent Gary May willfully and knowingly violated safety rules at the Upper Big Branch Mine.
May is named in a federal information, a document that signals he is cooperating with prosecutors.
May is accused of conspiring to defraud the federal government...and is the highest ranking Massey Energy employee yet to face criminal prosecution as the result of the investigation into the deadly April 2010 explosion which killed 29 men.
The information alleges that May was involved in five different criminal acts.
He allegedly gave advance notice of MSHA inspections at the mine....and concealed and covered up violations when he received early warnings.
The feds say he falsified examination record books at Upper Big Branch...and altered the ventilation system to direct additional air to areas where inspections were taking place.
But perhaps the most damning allegation is that May is accused of altering the methane monitor on a continuous miner. May allegedly altered the monitor's automatic shut-off switch, allowing the miner to operate for hours without a functioning monitor.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin declined an on-camera interview, but did provide Eyewitness News with a statement.
Other mine disasters have resulted in criminal prosecutions, but those typically targeted low-ranking employees with misdemeanor charges.
That hasn't been the case with the UBB probe.
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