A look at West Virginia candidate Jim Justice's debts

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2016 10:57 AM

Jim Justice, who is running for West Virginia governor, is facing criticism for failing to keep up with property tax debts owed by his companies in struggling Kentucky coal counties. Justice says he is doing his best to keep his companies running during a downturn in the coal industry, and he has pledged to pay all his debts. Justice's companies have been accused of racking up other debts totaling millions with vendors, government agencies and business acquaintances, often through his many coal subsidiaries. Here are some recent cases:

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— Justice was sued in 2011 by Celtic Marine, a shipping company that contracted with one of his coal companies. A court ruled Justice owed it more than $685,000. He was then sued by the New Orleans law firm who represented him in that case on accusations he didn't pay his $400,000 legal bill. Justice settled the suit from Phelps Dunbar for an undisclosed amount in August.

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— In March, a Pennsylvania man won a $2 million judgment in federal court against two Justice companies for mineral royalties Justice owed in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Tom Lampert alleged that Justice never paid the promised $4 per ton for the first 500,000 tons mined and sold from the land. The court later tacked on another $450,000 in fees, bringing the total debt to $2.4 million. The Justice companies, Tams Management and Southern Coal Corporation, have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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— Justice settled a $548,000 debt last year with an eastern Kentucky tax consultant company he hired to assist his coal companies in seeking "refunds of Kentucky sales tax, use tax, tangible property tax and excise taxes," according to court records. The George & Company firm, beginning in 2012, secured about $2.3 million in refunds for several Justice coal subsidiaries, but the tax firm sued Justice, saying he failed to pay a portion of the 30 percent fee he had agreed to. A court document says Justice paid the debt in full in May 2015.