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West Virginia governor agrees to pay family firm’s $1M fines

June 6, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to pay a $1.23 million court-ordered sanction against one of his family’s companies.

Justice’s lawyers and federal prosecutors said in a joint court filing Thursday that they’ve reached a deal for Justice Energy Co. to clear the fine in three payments of $410,000. The sanction stems from an unpaid 2016 fine ordered over a contract breach.

In a statement, attorney Mike Carey said the debt was incurred when a Russian company owned Justice Energy Co. The debt ballooned because the Russian company’s lawyer ignored orders to appear in court, Carey said.

One of Justice’s other companies, Bluestone Resources, will pay the sanction, according to the filing.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart told a judge Wednesday that Justice Energy is a moneyless shell company that exists to shield Justice’s family from liability. He asked that the governor and his son Jay Justice not be allowed to hide behind the company and be ordered to pay the debt.

“The Justices have the ultimate decision-making authority over all of the activities of these entities, and their decisions led to the imposition of the civil contempt sanction imposed by the Court in this case,” he said.

The agreement must be approved by a federal judge before it takes effect.

Justice has been reported to be the richest man in West Virginia, with a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion by Forbes magazine. In his most recent financial disclosure statement, Justice lists more than 100 business interests, including coal and timber companies. He has said he wants to put his assets in a blind trust but hasn’t done so.

Last month, the U.S. government sued nearly two dozen of Justice’s coal businesses to get them to pay about $4.8 million in unpaid mine safety fines that date back to 2014. His lawyer said he was upset the case was filed because the companies have been in negotiations to resolve the fines.

The filings also come as three federal subpoenas sent to Justice’s administration have recently become public.

The first subpoena was sent to the state commerce department for documents about a posh resort owned by the governor. Two other subpoenas sought records from the state tax and revenue departments about the governor’s businesses.

Justice has said he is cooperating with the investigation, previously saying “anything you’re going to find around me is going to be goodness and it’s going to be the right thing.”

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