New York City Concrete Testing Firm Convicted of Faking Tests

A Manhattan, New York, jury found concrete testing engineers Testwell Laboratories, Inc., guilty in state court on felony charges of faking concrete tests for as many as a hundred high-profile construction projects in the city, including the new Yankee Stadium and the new "Freedom Tower" at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center, according to a report in Business Week (" Testwell, CEO Guilty of Faking Freedom Tower Tests," by Erik Larson and Karen Freifeld). According to prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the company made millions of dollars a year for quality control testing, recording made-up test values in official reports even though few tests were actually performed. "At the Yankee Stadium project, for instance, 90 percent of the handwritten field-test reports had no results for concrete density tests, though values were later inserted on reports," prosecutors charged, reports Business Week. Reports the magazine, "On the Freedom Tower and Jet Blue terminal projects, Testwell 'systematically falsified' strength tests of the concrete, writing in design specification values, rather than testing them, prosecutors have said." An Oct. 30, 2008 press release from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office explains in more detail Testwell’s fraudulent practices with regard to concrete design mix reports, field tests, steel inspections, and inspector certifications. IN a section called “The Compressive Strength Scheme,” the release describes how Testwell falsified strengths test results: "For example, in connection with the construction of the Freedom Tower, Testwell was hired by the developer to assure that the concrete met the design specifications of 12,000 PSI. From May 2006 until September 2006, Testwell certified that the concrete reached or exceeded 12,000 PSI on each and every occasion tested. However, in late September 2006, the Port Authority commenced its own testing and determined that the concrete was averaging around 10,000 PSI and that only a third of the pours ever hardened to the required 12,000 PSI. The Port Authority then did core testing, removing samples of the concrete that were already in place, and found that it was actually 9,000 PSI—not the 12,000 that Testwell had certified." After convicting Testwll on the state felony charges, the jury took longer to consider individual charges against two top company executives, owner V. Reddy Kancharla and vice president Vincent Barone. But after several days, the jury found both men guilty of "enterprise corruption" — a crime that could land them in jail for as long as 25 years, a New York Times blog reported (" Testing Company Officials Guilty on Top Count," by John Eligon). Prosecutors seem inclined to press for a stiff sentence. In a statement, Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance said, “Testwell’s conduct was reprehensible not only for its pattern of theft and deception, but for its utter disregard for the safety of the public at large, motivated by profit.” Defense attorney Paul Schechtman, however, said he would appeal the verdict based, at least in part, on the judge's decision to exclude evidence from defense experts who would have testified that Testwell's practices were typical of other testing firms. Said Schechtman, "I wish the jury could have learned Testwell’s way was the industry’s way."