Read the FBI letter here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Families of the miners who died last April at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine might be the victims of a federal crime, the FBI has told families in a letter obtained by the Gazette-Mail.
Earlier this week, families received two-page letters from the FBI informing them that they might be eligible for certain government services provided to crime victims under federal law.
The letter was signed by Joseph I. Ciccarelli, supervisory special agent for the FBI's Charleston field office, and also carried the name of Michael A. Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the agency's Pittsburgh office.
"As you may be aware, the FBI has instituted an investigation into various activities at UBB in an effort to determine whether any Federal crimes have occurred," the letter said. "In connection therewith, you may be a victim of a Federal crime."
The letter continued, "This investigation can be a lengthy process and we request your continued patience while we conduct a thorough investigation."
The FBI letter was dated March 28, but was not received by some families until earlier this week.
Among other things, victims of federal crimes are entitled to updates from the government about the status of their case, the right to be heard at certain court proceedings, and to protection from the accused.
Stuart Fronk, assistant special agent in charge of FBI operations in West Virginia, said the Upper Big Branch correspondence was "a standard letter," but refused to answer other questions about the matter.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in Charleston would not comment on the letter, which was sent directly by the FBI and not by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Massey officials did not respond to requests for comment.