Two men who schemed to steal anhydrous ammonia from an eastern Kanawha County mining wastewater treatment site five years ago to make methamphetamine were sentenced Dec. 17 to federal prison, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said.
Jason Hudnall, 36, of Malden was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Hudnall had admitted in September to conspiracy to steal the anhydrous ammonia and negligent release of anhydrous ammonia into the air.
John Wesley Tucker, 48, of Georges Creek, was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $1,000 after admitting in October to conspiracy to steal anhydrous ammonia to be used to manufacture methamphetamine.
Both were sentenced by U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. in Charleston.
Anhydrous ammonia, considered extremely hazardous, is ammonia in a gaseous form that does not contain water. The chemical is generally used to treat mining runoff in waste water ponds, but it's also sought by individuals as a component in the illegal production of methamphetamine.
Goodwin said Tucker, Hudnall and two other conspirators used tools, including a battery-powered saw, to cut a security lock on a 1,000-gallon storage tank containing the chemical and attempted to load it into portable tanks they'd brought with them. The four fled the scene after they split a theft-prevention valve cover, leaving the valve open and allowing about 500 gallons of the dangerous chemical leaked into the air.
Emergency service units, including the Belle and Chesapeake Fire Departments, DuPont Chemical Company's Hazardous Material Team, West Virginia State Police, employees from Penn-Virginia Resources and employees from Republic Mining responded to the leak, which prompted the Kanawha County Office of Emergency Services to issue a shelter-in-place safety order for nearby residents.
Penn-Virginia Resources, owner of the damaged storage tank, lost roughly 2,500 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at a cost of $1,725, Goodwin said.
The company also paid Mallard Environmental approximately $3,325 to clean up the area surrounding the damaged tank, and DuPont Emergency Response Group also incurred approximately $1,800 in expenses as a result of the chemical leak.
Co-conspirator Mitchell Ray Workman, 34, of Chelyan had been sentenced in April to 2.5 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy, while 34-year-old Jason Brown of Malden, who drove the others to the mine site, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, with the first six months served in community confinement as well as six months under electronically monitored home confinement.
Each defendant also was ordered to make restitution in the amount of $6,850 for damage caused by the leak.
Goodwin said the anhydrous ammonia tank has since been removed from the site.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia State Police conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Erik S. Goes, William King and Blaire Malkin handled the prosecutions.