Former Sago Mine Foreman Indicted for Falsifying Reports

A former Sago Mine foreman was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges that he falsified inspection reports at the mine in 2004 and was never certified as an underground miner or a mine foreman.

The 116-count indictment against Robert L. Dennison, 35, of Wallace is not related to the Jan. 2 explosion that killed 12 miners at the Upshur County mine, U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Johnston said.

Dennison was hired in May 2004 by the mine's former owner, Anker Energy, and was fired in August 2004 when the company found out he was not certified to do the safety inspections, the indictment charges.

The mine was purchased last year by Ashland, Ky.-based International Coal Group.

"This type of allegedly fraudulent activity has no place in the mining environment, especially when the safety of miners is place at risk," Johnston said.

If convicted, Dennison could face up to five years in prison and $10,000 fines for each of the first 113 counts. He could receive up to five years and $250,000 in fines for each the remaining counts.

The indictment charges Dennison worked the weekend shift from May 20 to Aug. 22, 2004, certifying he had properly inspected the belts and track section, the construction area and other parts of the Sago Mine near Buckhannon.

On his first inspection form, Dennison allegedly failed to include his foreman's certification number. On subsequent inspections, the indictment says he listed a number that belongs to a foreman who doesn't know and has never met Dennison.

The indictment charges Dennison also faked inspection reports on Aug. 15, 2004, then lied to an investigator with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration who questioned him.

"MSHA vigorously investigates all acts of unlawful conduct that threaten miners' safety and refers those cases involving criminal conduct to the United States Attorney's Office for prosecution," said David G. Dye, acting assistant secretary of labor for MSHA.