Indictment: Philly Man Impersonated ATF Agent at Amtrak Crash Site
Editor’s note: The original version of this story erroneously included a photo depicting a man named Michael Alvaro who is not the Michael Alvaro referenced in this story. Philadelphia magazine apologizes for the error.
On May 12th at approximately 9:30 p.m., Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed at Frankford Junction in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring hundreds. And within minutes of the crash, Northeast Philadelphia’s Michael Alvaro was allegedly on the phone with authorities, offering his assistance as a DEA agent, a duly authorized federal law enforcement officer offering to help in whatever way he could.
Trouble is, Alvaro doesn’t work for the DEA, and now he has been indicted in Philadelphia’s federal court.
Federal prosecutors say that Alvaro called again at 10:00 p.m., just thirty minutes after the crash, as first responders were scrambling to find and assist victims. According to the indictment in the case, Alvaro asked police radio where the “command posts for the situation” were, and since the dispatcher believed him to be “Sgt. Alvero, DEA,” he was provided with the requested information. “I’m headed down now,” he allegedly told the radio operator.
At 11:30 p.m., prosecutors say, Alvaro turned up at the crash site wearing a “POLICE” vest and identifying himself this time as a member of not the DEA but the ATF. He allegedly spoke with two members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s bomb squad, who were investigating the crater caused by the derailment. One of the cops asked Alvaro to keep an eye on the crater so that no one walked into it, and he agreed, according to the indictment. When the cops returned, Alvaro was gone.
It wasn’t the first time that Alvaro is alleged to have impersonated a federal agent. Back in November 2014, a Pennsylvania State Trooper responded to an accident on I-95 North that involved alcohol. The trooper learned that one of the drivers had an open warrant for his arrest, so he cuffed him and put him in the back of his car. Enter Michael Alvaro. Prosecutors say that Alvaro stopped at the scene, identifying himself to the trooper as a member of a DEA task force. The trooper told Alvaro to watch the suspect while a search of his car was underway.
Alvaro allegedly convinced the state trooper to let him take a look at the vehicle, and he took a pry bar to the car’s cargo hold, finding a plastic bag containing what the indictment describes as a “brick shaped sludgy object.” According to the indictment, Alvaro deemed the substance to be heroin. (It later turned out to be paintballs.) And Alvaro told the trooper to bring in the K-9 unit.
Alvaro, 37, has been charged with impersonating a federal officer and with making a search while impersonating an officer. He is currently free on $10,000 bail.