Feds target false billing scheme at Alpha

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Federal investigators say they've uncovered a scheme that ripped off Alpha Natural Resources with false supply billings.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says three now-former employees of the coal operator will plead guilty along with a mining supply company owner.

Charges filed Monday accuse Edward Ellis Mullins, Joey R. Phalin and Nicholas R. Coleman of fraud. All three are West Virginia residents and were local sourcing agents for Alpha.

Donald Bryan Steele was also charged Monday. The Barboursville man owns M&S Hydraulics, a major Alpha supplier.

Prosecutors allege the sourcing agents approached suppliers about providing cash and gifts to them and other Alpha employees. The plot concealed these transactions by having suppliers submit false invoices.

Alpha contacted the FBI after a tire supplier alerted it to the scheme in late 2011.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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