CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Mercer County man admitted on Monday that he faked having a foreman's certificate when he performed safety checks at four different Southern West Virginia coal mines over an 18-month period, court records show.
Craig Belcher, 36, of Bluefield, pleaded guilty to one criminal count of making a false statement on a record required by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, the records show.
In an agreement with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, Belcher pleaded guilty to entering a false certification number on a pre-shift examination form at then-Massey Energy subsidiary Spartan Mining's Road Fork No. 51 Mine in Wyoming County in January 2009.
Belcher had originally pleaded not guilty to a four-count grand jury indictment and trial had been scheduled to begin today in U.S. District Court in Bluefield.
Now, Belcher faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when Senior U.S. District Judge David A. Faber sentences him Dec. 2.
Belcher was originally charged with lying about having a foreman's certification to perform required safety checks at Frasure Creek Mining's Mine No. 15 in Fayette County, Pay Car Mining's Mine No. 58 in McDowell County, and Double Bonus Coal's Mine No. 65 in Wyoming County. Frasure Creek was owned by Essar, while Pay Car and Double Bonus were controlled by Mechel OAO.
The original indictment alleged Belcher signed pre-shift and on-shift reports indicating he had properly examined particular sections of each mining operation. It further alleged that Belcher was not certified as a foreman when those reports were completed. It also alleged Belcher falsified foreman's certification numbers on safety reports, using license numbers that did not belong to him.