The superintendent of the West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 29 men was charged Wednesday with conspiracy to defraud the federal government, becoming the highest-ranking employee to face criminal prosecution in an investigation that appeared to be moving steadily up the corporate ladder.

Former Upper Big Branch mine boss Gary May, 43, of Bloomingrose, W.Va., is named in a “federal information,” a document that signals a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. He is the second employee of the company that owns the mine, Massey Energy, to face prosecution in the case.

Reached at his home Wednesday morning, May declined comment.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said his investigation of the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades is “absolutely not” finished, signaling that officials are now exploring possible criminal charges against even higher-level executives of the company. Goodwin did not immediately comment further.

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