Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton called yesterday for a "full-scale FBI investigation" of alleged organized crime infiltration of the coal industry in southwest Virginia.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell, Dalton cited a December murder in Wise County "believed to be linked to an organized crime network operating in the southwest Virginia coal counties."
A Justice Department spokesman said he could not comment on the request until it was received in Washington. The spokesman said the Justice Department now has received allegations of organized criminal activity in the coal industries in Virginia and seven other states - West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Illinois and California.
Dalton wrote that he was "concerned about allegations that corporate crimes in the form of deceptive practices, ficticious and nonfictitious corporations, insurance fraud, fencing stolen and expensive mining equipment and arson are being committed . . ." He pledged full state corporation in an interstate probe that would include Virginia.
Dalton's action followed a recommendation from state Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman and apparently was influenced by statements by a ranking Virginia State Police official that individuals linked with known "Mafia" bosses were active in the coal industries of Virginia and other states.
Capt. Rex F. Hoskins, head of the state police criminal intelligence unit, told the State Crime Commission last week that organized crime figures were dealing in worthless coal leases, fraudulent equipment loans and exchanges of coal for drugs in overseas markets.
Earlier in May, Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Joseph Kuczko asked Dalton to seek U.S. Justice Department aid, alleging that organized crime was moving into his county. Kuczko and police officials agreed that the murder of a Georgia businessman, David Hill, in Wise County last December was linked to an interstate scheme involving fraud in heavy-equipment financing.
Kuczko said he could not be more specific about the influence organized crime figures may have in the area. "They certainly don't come down the street and say that they belong to the Mafia," he said.
Paul R. Thomson Jr., U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said yesterday his office in "in the process of conducting a preliminary investigation into the allegations," and that the number of federal investigators had been increased in his district. "We're trying to ascertain what we've got and make some basic decisions," he said. "We all recognize that if you make a commitment to use coal as a major energy source you will draw an element that will cause some problems."