Former Logan circuit clerk pleads guilty to mine kickback scheme
A former Logan County circuit clerk pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court for his role in a coal mine kickback scheme.
Alvis Porter, 61, of Holden, who owned Quality Oil, admitted that he paid about $400,000 in kickbacks to the manager of an Arch Coal mine. Porter faces up to five years in prison when U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston sentences him Oct. 16.
Porter, along with nine other men, were charged in May as part of a widespread scheme that alleged companies were forced to pay kickbacks to obtain machine repair work and other contracts at a mining complex near Sharples. The men are charged with receiving $1.5 million in kickbacks between 2007 and 2012.
In 2009, Porter admitted, he began paying kickbacks to David Runyon, the general manager at Mountain Laurel, so Runyon would continue hiring Porter’s company to do construction work at the mine.
During some months in 2012 and 2013, Porter employed a person as a foreman supervising a slate dump and excavation projects at Mountain Laurel, according to the information filed against him. Porter also admitted that he paid that employee under the table so that he could withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes for that employee.
All of the men were charged via information, which is similar to an indictment, but can’t be filed without a defendant’s consent. It usually signals a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.
Porter has agreed to forfeit $350,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and pay the IRS nearly $30,000, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s office.
Runyon, 45, of Delbarton, is charged with one count each of extortion and tax evasion. Prosecutors say he received illegal payments and then did not report those payments on his income tax returns. He’s expected to plead guilty on Aug. 7.
On Wednesday, Gary Roeher, of Holden, who owns CM Supply, pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. In 2010 and 2011, he claimed business-expense deductions on his federal tax returns that he paid in kickbacks to an official at Mountain Laurel. He faces up to three years in federal prison when Johnston sentences him Oct. 15.
Dates have been set for all of the men charged in the alleged scheme. Also charged are:
| Gary K. Griffith, 62, of Oceana, the former maintenance manager at Mountain Laurel. Griffith was charged with lying to federal agents about the alleged kickback schemes.
| Stephen B. Herndon, 37, of Holden, the former Mountain Laurel warehouse manager. Herndon is charged with “structuring” a bank withdrawal to evade federal transaction-reporting requirements. Prosecutors also allege he later joined one of the vending companies and participated in paying kickbacks to Arch officials.
| Scott. E. Ellis, 44, of Holden, is one of Herndon’s partners from Tri-State Mine Service. He’s charged with aiding and abetting Herndon and making structured bank withdrawals.
| David N. Herndon, 63, of Chauncey. The owner of MAC Mine Inc., Herndon is accused of paying kickbacks to continue providing contract labor to the mine and trying to withdraw funds obtained by providing such labor to pay more kickbacks so he could continue to hold the contract.
| Ronald Barnette, 53, of Holden, who owns Mining Repair Specialist, is charged with lying to federal agents about paying kickbacks to obtain work rebuilding mining equipment for Mountain Laurel.
| Chadwick J. Lusk, 32, of Davin, was a purchasing agent at Mountain Laurel. He’s charged with “honest services” mail fraud. Prosecutors say Lusk denied Arch Coal its right to his “honest services” by taking kickbacks in exchange for buying “crib blocks” for mine-roof support from CM Supply.
| James H. Evans II, 39, of Verdunville. The owner of Baisden Recycling, Evans is charged with conspiracy to committee honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors say Evans paid Arch’s commission on scrap metal he recycled from Mountain Laurel to Runyon, rather than to Arch, as a kickback to keep the recycling contract.
Goodwin has said he anticipates more “significant developments” in the ongoing investigation into the case.
Reach Kate White at email@example.com or 304-348-1723.