|5/6/2019 - WV Governor Jim Justice is facing more problems this week.|
The U.S. government has sued nearly two dozen of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's coal companies to get them to pay about $4.8 million in unpaid mine safety fines.
The civil lawsuit was filed Tuesday by federal prosecutors in Virginia on behalf of the U.S. Department of Labor and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
His companies have committed more than 2,000 federal Mine Health and Safety Act violations since 2014, but have refused to pay the penalties.
The companies operate in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
Don Blankenship's former Massey Coal owed multi-millions of dollars in unpaid safety and environmental fines. Blankenship eventually served a one year prison sentence over safety violations that ended the lives of 29 Big Branch miners.
ORIGINAL STORY - Three years after the massive 2016 West Virginia floods, state officials have been unable to get their act together for those devastated by the disaster.
Furthermore, cases have surfaced where the funds were stolen, misused or just not processed.
Mike Stuart, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said that his office is investigating the use of federal funds for disaster relief.
Stuart announced the investigation in a press release, but he did not specify which officials or which agencies are targets of the probe. He said his office is working with other federal agencies to hold anyone accountable who “abused their position of authority, violated the public trust, or misused taxpayer dollars.”
“Desperate communities and West Virginians depend on critical, limited dollars to assist in recovery,” Stuart said. “Desperate communities and West Virginians need certainty that in a future disaster intended assistance will be delivered timely and spent properly. West Virginians need to be reassured that federal law enforcement is now investigating this matter.”
The investigation revolves around the June 2016 flood and the millions of dollars that flowed into West Virginia for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies.
In late March, four current and former Richwood officials were formally arrested after allegations surfaced that they had misspent FEMA dollars. Among other things, the officials have been accused of hiring themselves or their friends and families for positions paid for by flood-relief money.
Further, Gov. Jim Justice is under federal investigation regarding his finances.
A federal investigation of West Virginia has widened to include a range of tax documents on the governor’s expansive business portfolio, according to a subpoena sent to his administration last month.
The federal grand jury subpoena that the state Revenue Department released Friday asks for communications, meeting records and tax documents involving the state and any of the roughly 100 private business interests held by the Republican governor.
Investigative reporting has indicated that Justice owes millions of dollars of taxes on his coal interests and properties.