CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former workers' compensation insurance company auditor on Friday was sentenced to prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for helping coal-company contractors lower their premiums.
Arville Sargent, 52, of Chapmanville, was ordered to spend six years in jail after he pleaded guilty in a scheme that defrauded his employer, BrickStreet Insurance, out of millions in insurance premiums.
U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. called Sargent's actions "an enormous fraud" that involved repeated bribes over a nearly decade-long period of time. Copenhaver called the amount of lost premiums -- $7.1 million -- "staggering" for BrickStreet and its predecessor, the state-run workers' compensation program.
The judge said Sargent showed an "utter disregard" for his position as an auditor whose job it was to ensure that companies insured by BrickStreet properly reported payroll figures that were used to calculate premiums.
"This scheme is the ultimate breach of trust by this defendant," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Ryan, who prosecuted the case. "He was taking enormous bribe payments from the clients of BrickStreet who worked in the most dangerous industry."
Sargent is the fifth man to be sentenced to jail in the case, a multimillion-dollar scheme aimed at lowering workers' compensation premiums for contract firms that provided workers to some of the state's largest coal producers.
The other men prosecuted so far were coal contract company officials who also admitted their roles in plea agreements with U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.