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Hot Rats & Poppers
January 24, 2005: When rats flee sinking ships of scams and public corruption they don't just dive for the porthole. Instead they wind up performing for the prosecution, squeaking names and dates in exchange for light sentence cheese. Some people think rats are worse than the cohorts they trade for truncated time. But among thieves honor has no place. So why look for it in empty space?

The rat issue came up in recent QT correspondence on the ever popular topic of AAR Contractor. The upstate New York asbestos abatement company headed by the father and son team of Raul and Alexander Salvagno. In December both received hefty prison terms for running a massive environmental scam, with Alex receiving the lion's share of 25 years. Since then questions about the case have been rolling in. Of course, if the mainstream newsmedia in New York State had done more investigative reporting into why one of the largest cases of environmental fraud in the history of the U.S. took place in the Empire State such questions would be moot. In Syracuse, where the Salvagnos stood trial in federal court, The Post-Standard provided excellent coverage. But they're one lone regional newspaper and the Salvagnos and AAR impacted a wide swath of the state. Plus, AAR's home base was much further east in the capital region of Albany County.

But back to the rat question. A recent correspondent felt that Timothy Carroll, who was convicted over 4 years ago in an AAR connected case and who has still not been sentenced, will be getting off easy in return for testifying for the prosecution against Alex Salvagno.

In 1988 Alex Salvagno was fresh from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Where as a frat boy he was known for convoluted-- and sometimes cruel-- pranks. And for his ability to get out of anything. Salvagno was bright, talented and popular, with the gift of being able to make others believe in him. To many he seemed destined for success and wealth. His future in whatever career he chose probably would have been stellar: he didn't need the grifter "edge". He just preferred it.

Though in his early 20's, Alex Salvagno was already president of AAR Contractor, located in Albany County. (His father Raul was vice-president. Raul was also president of AAR Contractor in Florida.) AAR specialized in environmental abatement, primarily asbestos and lead, as well as a number of other services. Including industrial cleaning, construction and floor preparation. Alex Salvagno also ran AAR Environmental Services which provided similar services. Both versions of AAR operated out of the same address in Latham. In 1990, Alex Salvagno started Analytical Laboratories of Albany, Inc (ALA). Its purpose was to provide false verification for AAR clean-ups. Which is where Timothy Carroll comes in.

Since owners of environmental clean-up companies in New York State are legally barred from owning testing facilities which verify abatements, Salvagno needed a front man. Timothy Carroll, a former mechanical engineer at Clough, Harbor & Associates ( a prominent northeast engineering firm with numerous public and corporate clients ) was willing. Though posing as sole owner of ALA, Carroll owned 49% of the company. Salvagno held the controlling share of 51%. ALA initially operated from Timothy Carroll's home, but as it expanded moved to a series of offices. Eventually winding up on Railroad Avenue in Albany. Just a few steps away from one of Alex Salvagno's most recent places of business: Atlantic Surface Preparation.

Analytical Laboratories was highly successful. Not only did ALA produce phoney abatement results for AAR, it did so for other abatement companies as well. Some companies that dealt with ALA were honest, but many operated AAR style. Some worked in concert with AAR. Alex Salvagno also used ALA as a spy source for bid rigging: through ALA employees he found out what other companies were bidding for public contracts and then undercut the offers. AAR was able to keep its fees low since they didn't have to do much real abatement or abide by worker safety requirements. As well as faking abatement results via ALA, the Salvagnos, AAR and ALA were involved in producing phoney training certificates for asbestos workers. AAR employees typically worked without protective gear and when AAR actually removed asbestos, it was most often done without the treatments that make asbestos safe to handle. In what were called "rip and run" operations.

By the 90's AAR had become one of the largest and fastest growing environmental abatement entities in upstate New York. With private and corporate clients across the state, plus myriad municipal, county and state contracts. The Capital Building in Albany got the AAR asbestos treatment as did other state offices. Including the section of the NYS Department of Labor that oversees conditions of asbestos workers. Because of AAR's prominence and success, its crooked practices helped create a price war in the area's abatement industry-- which in turn fueled a rise in corruption. Phoney testing facilities and training programs sprang up like mushrooms. Ultimately resulting in a string of federal investigations and convictions.

In 1998, Timothy Carroll and Alex Salvagno learned ALA and AAR were targets of an EPA investigation. Salvagno told ALA's bookkeeper to destroy the company's financial records, but she refused. Carroll however, stepped up to the plate and destroyed paper records and computer discs. In 1999 Alex Salvagno seemingly bowed out of ALA and Timothy Carroll sold the company to 6 of ALA's employees. Yet according to AAR trial testimony by one of those employees, ALA went right on providing AAR with phoney abatement verifications.

In early 2000 Timothy Carroll was indicted. Later in the year he pled guilty to conspiracy charges. Since Carroll's sentencing was put off into the indefinite future, it seemed obvious he'd been flipped by the feds. Because perps who cut deals in exchange for testimony have been known to renege on the witness stand, it's common prosecutorial practice to delay sentencing until after the goods are delivered. In 2002, Alex and Raul Salvagno were indicted for a host of serious charges. In Spring of 2004, Timothy Carroll testified for the prosecution at their federal trial in Syracuse.

As quoted in the 03/05/04 Syracuse Post-Standard story "Witness: Asbestos tests faked" Timothy Carroll painted himself as someone who "wasn't comfortable with the illegal set-up" and who "sat in his office watching TV instead of becoming involved in the fake lab tests". Saying "I just did not like to do AAR projects. I tried to avoid it." Since ALA falsely verified roughly 75,000 samples for AAR in 8 years, Carroll must have spent a lot of time glumly watching TV. Presumably daytime TV. Those who need info re All My Children plot lines circa the 1990's might wish to contact him. Yet in a 05/19/97 Business Review (Capital Region) article "Business Briefs: Environmental testing firm takes more space" Carroll sounds considerably more upbeat and involved. Boasting about ALA's 100 steady clients, the four largest of which were nuclear power plants. Since one of those nuclear power plants was among the locations where AAR did a phoney abatement, it must have been the rare AAR project Carroll felt OK about.

Carroll is also quoted saying "his" firm had 500 other clients who used ALA on an "as-needed basis" and estimated ALA's revenue in 1996 as close to $2 million. (AAR's profits were naturally much larger.) Carroll also said ALA had opened an office in Hoboken, New Jersey-- in order to "penetrate" the New York City market. But that "having his home base in Albany, where he contracts out some work to scientists" would keep ALA's fees lower than those of NYC competitors. One wonders if the out source scientists in Albany employed the same methods as ALA/AAR's in-house experts. Who rode around highways holding filters out of car windows. In order to provide clients with the results of air quality tests on buildings. A testing method which requires scientific knowledge of "the windshield effect" and the ability to pick squashed flies off screens with tweezers. One also wonders how far ALA/AAR got with the plans to penetrate NYC. Since Alex Salvagno, representing AAR Environmental, was listed in Summer of 2003 as a participant on a downtown Manhattan panel that reviewed the EPA's report on air quality in the post 9/11 WTC area.

When Tim Carroll gassed off to the Business Review in 1997, he knew full well his presentation of himself as master of ALA was bogus. Yet he basked in the success of another man's crooked creation. How empty is that? Small wonder he turned rat in hopes of a lesser sentence. Carroll incidentally, wasn't the only convicted member of the ALA/AAR crew to do so. Just one of the most highly placed. And while it's been a long time since Carroll was convicted with no sentence awarded, the AAR case has been lengthy and complicated; involving the investigation, prosecution and conviction of several dozen people before working its way to the pinnacle of Alex and Raul Salvagno. Who contributed to the longevity of the proceedings by employing as many legal delays as possible.

Though it might gall that fully complicit Timothy Carroll may have bought himself a softer berth by turning rat, it's important to ask whether if Carroll hadn't testified would Alex and Raul Salvagno still be leaving public buildings, including grade schools and homes for the mentally ill, full of asbestos? And telling workers to just suck it up? Judging by the way Alex Salvagno continued doing shifty business under assorted entity names even after federal investigations began, it's doubtful if anything less than a ringing conviction would have brought him up short. And while a strong overall case was presented against the Salvagnos, Timothy Carroll as front man for ALA played a pivotal role in their scams. It helps a lot for a jury to hear about a criminal conspiracy from someone high up on the inside. Even if the person telling the tale does have a squeaky voice and twitching whiskers.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"AAR officials used code words to tip off the [ALA] lab workers about how to handle test results, Reed said. Along with rip and run jobs, there were also 'poppers,' 'slam jobs' and 'in and outs'" he testified."

"Witness says job routinely illegal," John O'Brien, The Post-Standard, 12/17/03

"I'm a little pimp with my hair gassed back/Pair a khaki pants with my shoe shined black"

"Willie the Pimp", Frank Zappa, Hot Rats 1969

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Copyright (c) 2005 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.


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