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Ex-Signal Peak Mine safety manager sentenced for conspiring to make false reports about coal mine injury

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Posted at 8:36 AM, May 25, 2023

BILLINGS - A former safety manager at Signal Peak Energy coal mine was sentenced this week for his role in a coverup of a mining accident that left a worker with a partial amputation after his fingers were crushed in an investigation the U.S. Attorney’s Office characterized as a broad corruption case.

Curtis Floyd, 47, of Billings, was fined $2,000 and will spend two years on probation after pleading guilty to conspiring to submit false statements in mine records, according to a news release Tuesday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Montana.

Floyd was responsible for overseeing accidents and injuries of miners and filing related reports, but he helped coverup injuries instead, according to the government.

“Floyd dropped off injured miners at the hospital instead of escorting them inside or let them go home, knowing they would lie to doctors about how they got hurt, and he let required safety reports disappear instead of making sure the reports were filed,” the news release said.

U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said Floyd failed miners and flouted safety regulations, the Daily Montanan reports.

“As Signal Peak Energy’s safety manager, Floyd had a duty to make sure miners were safe and protected and to document and report accidents,” Laslovich said in a statement. “… We expect mines and their managers to operate in compliance with all regulations, and when they don’t, they will be held accountable.”

The news release noted this prosecution was part of a corruption investigation into Signal Peak Energy’s management and operations that resulted in criminal misdemeanor convictions of the company for willful violation of health and safety standards and felony convictions of some former mine managers and associates for embezzlement, tax evasion, bank fraud, money laundering, drugs, and firearms violations.

The news release noted that in early 2018, John Doe 1, a miner, had his fingers crushed while loading mining materials, and the injury eventually required partial amputation.

As Floyd was taking John Doe 1 to the hospital, Dale Musgrave, the former vice president of underground operations, called the injured miner and directed him to falsely claim that the injury was unrelated to his work, the news release said.

Musgrave told John Doe 1 that he would make it worth his while, the news release said. Floyd told John Doe 1 he would support whatever decision was made, and the injured miner agreed to not report the incident.

Floyd and Musgrave were required to complete a U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration Mine Accident, Injury and Illness report, but they never completed or submitted a report, and they also failed to report John Doe 1’s injury on another MSHA quarterly report, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The news release noted Musgrave was sentenced to probation and fined $20,000 for his conviction in the case.

In the plea agreement reached with Floyd, the parties agreed that a term of probation was appropriate.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen presided over the case.

Federal officials from the Mine Safety and Health and the U.S. Department of Labor also praised the outcome, according to the news release.

“The Mine Safety and Health Administration relies on accurate and timely reporting data to inform our investigations and address safety and health hazards,” said Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Chris Williamson in a statement. “These reports also help mine operators uphold their legal obligation to keep miners safe and healthy by advising the industry of necessary changes to prevent future incidents.

“Floyd’s failure to report this data undercuts this system and puts miners at risk. We thank the Department of Justice for its vigorous enforcement of the Mine Act and helping MSHA protect the nation’s miners.”

Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda similarly praised the Department of Justice’s efforts to keep miners safe.

“Protecting the health and safety of our nation’s miners requires a team effort, which starts with mine operators following crucial safety and health laws and regulations,” Nanda said in a statement. “When mine operators violate their obligations or attempt to cheat the system, the Department of Labor will not hesitate to use every available tool to uphold the law, including partnering with other agencies.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Rubich, Zeno Baucus, and Timothy Tatarka prosecuted the case, the news release said. The IRS Criminal Investigation, FBI, Department of Labor and Environmental Protection Agency conducted the investigation.

RELATED: Ex-Signal Peak mine safety director pleads guilty to concealing worker injury