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updated 2/22/2012 9:19:14 AM ET 2012-02-22T14:19:14

Federal prosecutors have charged the superintendent of a southern West Virginia mine with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, making him the highest-ranking Massey Energy employee yet to face criminal prosecution in a deadly explosion there.

Gary May is named in a federal information, a document that signals he's cooperating with prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says his investigation of the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades isn't finished but didn't immediately comment further Wednesday.

The April 2010 blast at the Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 men.

Although other disasters have led to criminal charges, they've typically targeted low-ranking employees with misdemeanors.

The other criminal defendant is former security chief Hughie Elbert Stover. He's awaiting sentencing for lying to investigators and trying to destroy documents.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Mine blast in West Va.

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  1. President Barack Obama walks past crosses, representing the 29 coal miners killed at the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, during a memorial service for them in Beckley, West Virginia, Sunday, April 25. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin asks for a moment of silence a week after 29 miners died in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. on Monday, April 12. (Bob Bird / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Jerry Bearfield, Jaden Clemons, 3, his sister Gabrielle Clemons, 4, their grandmother Gladys Clemons, and Jerry's brother Randy Bearfield take part in a national moment of silence in Whitesville, W.Va. on Monday. (Amy Sancetta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. People pray at Eccles Baptist Church in Eccles, W.Va., on Sunday, April 11. The town of Eccles has its own history and experience with mining disasters. In an explosion at the Eccles mine in 1914, over 100 people died. Twelve years later, another 19 died in another explosion. (Davis Turner / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Jariah Pack comforts Lynette Hinton as the pause in front of the casket of miner William Roosevelt Lynch during his funeral in Beckley, W.Va. on Sunday. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Community members gather at Marsh Fork High School in Glen Daniel, W.V., on Friday, April 9 for a candlelight vigil to honor the fallen miners. (Chad A. Stevens / milesfrommaybe Productions) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Michelle McKinney, right, is comforted by friends and family during a funeral service for her father, Benny Ray Willingham, at Mullens Pentecostal Holiness Church in Mullens, W.Va., on Friday. Benny Willingham was among those killed in an explosion at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. These miners were killed in the explosion on April 5. From top left: William Roosevelt Lynch, Deward Allan Scott, Howard "Boone" Payne, Steven Harrah, Benny Willingham, Ronald Maynor, Carl Acord, Robert Clark, Gary Quarles and John Atkins. (Courtsey of The Register-Herald) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. People gather outside Armstrong Funeral Home in Whitesville, W.Va., on Thursday, April 8, during a visitation for miner Deward Allan Scott. (David Maxwell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Massey Energy Complex in Montcoal, W.Va. (Craig Cunningham / Charleston Daily Mail via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Miranda Tuck, 10, holds a sign in front of her home in Eunice, W.Va., on Thursday. Standing behind her is her grandfather, Henry Ray Aliff, Sr. (Davis Turner / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Edna Asbury wipes tears from her eyes as she sits with other breakfast club members in Whitesville, W.Va., on Thursday at the City Diner where they watched a news report that rescue operations had been suspended at the Upper Big Branch mine. (Ed Reinke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, right, and Joe Main, second from left, of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, talk during a press conference on Thursday. (Matt Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Community members participate in a prayer service for the miners and their families at the New Life Assembly Chuch on Wednesday, April 7. (Kayana Szymczak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Gov. Manchin hugs Pam Napper, the mother of deceased coal miner Josh Napper, along with his girlfriend, Jennifer Ziegler, seen in red, on Wednesday at a candlelight vigil in Cabin Creek, W.Va. Napper was among the 25 miners killed on Monday. His uncle, Timmy Davis Sr., and his cousin, Cory Davis, also died in the explosion. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A crowd gathers for a candlelight vigil, in Oak Hill, W.Va., on Wednesday for Willam Roosevelt Lynch, a miner killed in the blast. (Jon C. Hancock / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Community members, friends, and family participate in a vigil held for the dead miners in front of the Whitesville Elementary School in Whitesville, W.Va., on Wednesday. (Kayana Szymczak / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A young boy is comforted as he cries during a candlelight vigil for the miners on Wednesday. (David Maxwell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A large drill sits above Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal on Wednesday. The drill had already made one hole and was working on a second to vent trapped gas. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Edgar Persinger of Beckley, W.Va., sells coal miner work outfits out of his van on Wednesday. Persinger, who has been selling the clothing for 30 years, estimates that 90 percent of his business is with miners who work for Massey. (Davis Turner / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A coal miner speaks on Wednesday about fellow miners who died at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine. (Bob Bird / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Gov. Manchin explains drilling locations on a map of the Upper Big Branch mine on Wednesday. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Massey Energy Co.'s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine includes the mine below and conveyor belts and pipes above ground. (Bob Bird / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Michelle McKinney hugs Jeannie Sanger after speaking with the media Tuesday about Benny Willingham, one of the miners killed. Willingham was Sanger's brother and Michelle's father. (Michael Henninger / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Trevor Quarles, 11, and Rabekka Quarles, 9, watch news reports about the explosion at their home in Naoma, W.Va., on Tuesday. Their father, Gary Quarles, was among those killed. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship speaks to reporters in Montcoall on Tuesday. (Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Michelle McKinney on Tuesday shares a photo of her father, Benny Willingham, one of the miners killed. (Matt Sullivan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Signs like this one appeared around Montcoal after Monday's disaster. (Mark Humphrey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Kevin Stricklin, left, an administrator with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, speaks alongside Gov. Joe Manchin at a press conference on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A note is posted Tuesday at the Marsh Fork Worship Center in Eunice, W.Va., near the Upper Big Branch coal mine. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Authorities survey the scene at the Upper Big Branch mine on Monday. The underground coal mine has a history of violations for not properly ventilating highly combustible methane gas, safety officials said. (Jon C. Hancock / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Families and friends wait alongside emergency personnel in Montcoal on Monday. (Jon C. Hancock / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Emergency vehicles leave the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine on Monday. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Billy Pettry, Caden Gray and Brandon Gray sit on the steps of the Marsh Fork Worship Center in Eunice, W.Va., on Monday. "As miners we always look out for one another," said Pettry, a retired coal miner of 20 years who says he is on disability with black lung. (Jeff Gentner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Jenny Waycaster of Montcoal waits Monday for news of her son, Ken Lambert, following the explosion. (Bob Bird / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles gather outside the mine on Monday shortly after the explosion. (Jon C. Hancock / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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