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Former mine inspector admits to taking bribes from Kentucky lawmaker

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - A former Kentucky mining inspector pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a federal charge that he took $46,000 in bribes from a one-time state lawmaker in exchange for not citing the official’s coal mining companies for violations.

As part of his plea in federal court, Kelly Shortridge agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has also charged former state Representative W. Keith Hall in the case.

In exchange for Shortridge’s admitting guilt on the bribery charge, prosecutors dropped charges of extortion and making false statements to the FBI.

The bribery charge carries up to 10 years in prison, but it is unclear how much Shortridge may face under the plea agreement.

Prosecutors allege that most of the funds were funneled from Hall’s companies to a consulting firm the two created under the name of Shortridge’s wife.

Shortridge will remain free on bond until his June 24 sentencing hearing in Lexington. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the plea, and calls to the attorneys of Shortridge and Hall were not returned.

Hall, who was first elected in 2000, lost in a primary election in May and his term ended in December. His companies listed in the indictment include Beech Creek Coal Co, LLC & HEI Services LLC.

If convicted of the bribery charge, Hall faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He is scheduled to go to trial on April 20.

Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Mohammad Zargham