Norton coal firm owner pleads guilty to defrauding Eastman

Matthew Lane • Jun 25, 2013 at 2:34 PM

GREENEVILLE — The owner of a Norton, Va., coal marketing company has agreed to plead guilty to a federal wire fraud charge in connection with a scheme where he sold low quality coal to Eastman Chemical Co.

A federal indictment charged Dale Edward Stanley with 22 counts of wire fraud in connection with the scheme. The indictment was filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in November 2012.

Stanley, of Clintwood, Va., pleaded guilty to one count of the indictment earlier this year and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 21. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to court records, Stanley was the owner of Mountain Energy Resources (MER), a Norton, Va., company in the business of purchasing and selling coal from the coalfields of Virginia and Kentucky.

In 2010, Eastman began purchasing coal on the spot market from Stanley; previously, Eastman had purchased coal from an Abingdon, Va.-based company Black Gold, which was supplied and loaded by MER, but in 2009 Black Gold ended its business relationship with MER.

Over the next two years, Stanley delivered more than $5.25 million worth of coal to Eastman, nearly 67,600 tons.

However, according to the plea agreement, Stanley provided Eastman with lower quality coal, concealing the lower quality product by placing it under higher quality coal in the rail cars sent to Eastman.

Eastman uses large quantities of steam coal for certain operations at its facility, coal that must have at least 12,500 BTUs or higher and an ash rate of 10 percent or lower. In its contract with Eastman, MER agreed to these terms.

Eastman contracted with a third-party inspection and testing company to determine if the coal purchased from MER met the requirements as set forth in the contract. The company performed “flow sample” testing of the coal, taking samples of the coal as it was being loaded onto the rail cars.

To circumvent the testing, Stanley paid off an employee of the testing company to sample coal from a pile of higher quality coal, which he kept on hand, and then submit the results to Eastman. Prosecutors say Stanley paid the employee on multiple occasions.

Subsequent testing by another company found the coal from MER, on average, had an ash rate of 16.57 percent and a BTU rate of 10,865.

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