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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former employees at a West Virginia coal mine are charged with pocketing almost $2 million from vendors in a pay-to-play kickback scheme, federal prosecutors said Friday.

US Attorney Booth Goodwin said the widespread setup required vendors to pay kickbacks to Arch Coal employees to do business with the coal company.

Four employees at Arch Coal's Mountain Laurel mining complex in Logan County are accused of taking kickbacks from 2007 to 2012. Prosecutors said the mine's former general manager, David E. Runyon, was at the center of the setup.

Prosecutors said some companies spent more than $400,000 to maintain lucrative contracts with Arch Coal, one of the biggest coal producers and marketers worldwide.

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Ten people in all have been charged, with vendors, contractors, and four Arch employees among them. The employees are no longer with the company.

Companies knew Arch Coal would sever their contracts if the side payments stopped. Likewise, Runyon knew losing the contracts would hurt the companies, according to court documents.

''This kind of pay-to-play scheme hurts honest coal industry vendors who refuse to pay bribes as a way to get customers,'' Goodwin said in a news release Friday.

Arch Coal has mines in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. Its Mountain Laurel facility employs about 350 in underground and surface mining. Mountain Laurel produced 2.9 million tons in sales last year, according to the company's website.

Associated Press