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Chemical Spill Company President Faces Charges

Former Freedom Industries president Gary Southern — whose company’s chemical spill earlier this year closed West Virginia businesses and left 300,000 people without drinking water — is back in court today.

He faces charges of bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud and lying under oath, and if convicted could receive up to 30 years in prison, the Associated Press reports.

An FBI affidavit says Southern lied about his role with the company to protect his personal wealth of nearly $8 million.

Southern has downplayed his role with the company before it was sold a few weeks prior to the January chemical spill.

“They are either outright lies, or are, at the very least, misleading,” FBI special agent James F. Lafferty II said in a sworn statement. “All of the statements indicate or suggest an effort to deflect blame from Southern for the discharge of (the chemical) MCHM into the Elk River.”

A preliminary economic assessment put the cost to businesses at $61 million.

Deno Stanley, owner of Adelphia Sports Bar & Grill in Charleston, told the AP he hopes the charges set a precedent for executives like Southern.

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