By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The company hired to test concrete and steel for many of the city’s skyscrapers and large construction projects allegedly "invented" thousands of results and failed to appraise the strength of steel and concrete used in skyscrapers and subway tunnels, prosecutors told a Manhattan Supreme Court jury on Wednesday.
Testwell Laboratories’ executives, engineers and inspectors are accused of making up results for — among other things — the Freedom Tower, Yankee Stadium and Second Avenue subway projects as part of an “intricate web of deceit,” meant to maximize billable hours and boost the company’s profits, prosecutors charged during opening statements in the trial of three Testwell figures.
“For the past decade, Testwell has been involved in nearly every single construction project erected in New York City,” Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence said.
The company also allegedly allowed unlicensed inspectors to sign off on important reports.
Testwell president V. Reddy Kancharla, vice president Vincent Barone and Wilfred Sanchez, a steel and fire code manager, face felony charges including grand larceny, falsifying records and enterprise corruption.
Kancharia's attorney Paul Shechtman countered that his client did not know about any possible wrongdoing and was removed from much of the paperwork and report production by his employees.
"My client Reddy Kancharla was the owner and CEO. It does not mean he is criminally responsible for [others'] shortcuts," Shechtman said.
Kancharla also refunded money to devlopers when his company failed to inspect properly, Shechtman said.
Over 119 structures, including public libraries, schools and apartment buildings, were subjected to Testwell’s corrupt quality control methods, according to prosecutors.
“We all walk past these buildings and we see people with hard hats, but we never really stop to think about what they’re doing,” Florence told a Manhattan jury Wednesday morning.
Inspectors from Testwell were hired to monitor steel and concrete. They were assigned to follow supply loads from the factory to the construction site and perform repeated tests.
Within Testwell there was a permeating “culture of fraud,” the prosecutor claimed. Important tests were fabricated or altered at every opportunity for the sake of increasing profits and job turnover, she added.
A forensic engineer employed by the Yankees was the first to notiece numbers fudging during the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, Florence told jurors.
"[The Yankees' employee] noticed (Testwell) field inspectors not even performing basic tests they were suppsed to perform," Florence said.
Two of the Ossining-based company's engineers have already pleaded guilty.
Witness testimony is scheduled to begin Thursday. The trial is anticipated to conclude in February 2010.