Indictment says Hall paid mine inspector to ignore violations of mines he owned
A state representative and mine owner has been indicted on charges of bribery. Rep. Keith Hall (D-Pike) was indicted on Thursday by a grand jury for allegedly paying former state mine reclamation inspector Kelly Shortridge $46,000 between 2006 and 2011 for ignoring mine reclamation violations at mines Hall owned. Hall was defeated in the May primary.
The U.S. Attorney’s office released the following statement:
A federal grand jury in London, Kentucky, has indicted state representative and Pikeville coal operator, Wendell Keith Hall, and a former state mine reclamation inspector, Kelly Shortridge, on bribery charges.
According to the indictment, Shortridge worked for the Kentucky Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement and was responsible for enforcing federal mine reclamation laws and regulations. From 2006 through 2011, Shortridge inspected mines owned by Hall, who represents House District 93 in Pike County. The indictment alleges that Shortridge ignored violations that occurred on Hall’s property in Pikeville, in exchange for a series of payments totaling over $46,000.
“The conduct alleged in the indictment is an unacceptable breach of the public trust,” said Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “Such conduct undermines the public’s faith in our institutions of government and makes the job harder for the vast majority of public officials who honorably discharge their duties on behalf of the public they serve. Our office and our law enforcement partners share an unwavering commitment to the prosecution of public corruption cases in our district.”
The indictment alleges that the two men disguised the payments as consulting fees. In 2010, they allegedly set up a shell company, DKJ Consulting, in the name of Shortridge’s wife and opened a bank account with her as the sole authorized signatory on the account. Hall then used a company he owned, S&K Properties, to funnel money to Shortridge, through DKJ.
Shortridge was also charged with lying to the FBI during an interview in July of this year. He allegedly told agents that he did not have any association with DKJ, that he did not know who was associated with the company, and that he had never received money from S&K Properties or any financial payments from Hall.
The indictment also charges Shortridge with attempting to extort money from Hall, in 2011, by sending Hall a message that if he did not pay the money he owed, Shortridge would induce another inspector to cite him for serious violations.
Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Howard S. Marshall, Special Agent in Charge, FBI; and Scott Culver, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, jointly announced the indictment.
The bribery charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 10 years; the extortion charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison; and lying to a federal agent carries a maximum of 5 years in prison. However, any sentence following a conviction would come after the Court considers the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statutes governing the imposition of sentences.
Any indictment is an accusation only. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial, at which the government must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.