Last updated: August 06. 2014 4:06PM - 420 Views

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Staff report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Verdunville businessman has pleaded guilty to charges connected with a kickback scheme that operated at a coal mine in Logan County owned by Arch Coal Co.

Thirty-nine-old James Evans III’s company recycled scrap cable at Arch’s Mountain Laurel mining complex at Holden. He was accused of paying Arch’s $30,000 commission from selling the scrap to the mine’s general manager, David Runyon of Delbarton, so that his company would remain its scrap-metal vendor.

Online court records show that Evans pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Sentencing is set for Nov. 17 in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Evans and Runyon are among 10 men accused of participating in the kickback scheme.

A plea hearing for Runyon is set for Thursday. He’s charged with extortion.

Runyon, 45, is accused of being the mastermind of the scheme, receiving cash kickbacks from certain vendors in exchange for receiving work.

According to the charges, vendors were required to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years to ensure that vendors received, and continued to receive, work at Mountain Laurel.

“This kind of pay-to-play scheme hurts honest coal-industry vendors who refuse to pay bribes as a way to get customers,” said Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. “The corrupt way that these defendants did business should be a thing of the past.

“It’s bad for the economy and, ultimately, bad for consumers,” Goodwin said.

Runyon is charged with extorting certain vendors for cash kickbacks in exchange for ensuring that complicit vendors continued to receive work from Mountain Laurel. Runyon and other Arch employees are charged with receiving kickbacks approaching $2 million over a five-year period that ran from sometime in 2007 through sometime in 2012.

Runyon faces up to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 when he enters his plea during Thursday’s hearing in Charleston.

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