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Posted November 16, 2010 EST

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Fired Haverhill Firefighter Indicted In EMT Scandal
Jeffrey Given, the former Haverhill firefighter fired two months ago for allegedly orchestrating a scheme that allowed 29 other city firefighters to forge their training records, has been indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury. Given, 41, who also worked as a paramedic for Trinity EMS in Haverhill, is charged with four counts of aiding and abetting the making of false statements in documents to the state Office of Emergency Medical Services, violating state emergency medical requirements, and conspiracy to commit emergency medical services violations. He faces up to $5,000 in fines and two and a half years in jail if convicted of the charges, a spokesman for Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

A press release put out yesterday by the attorney general's office said Given and four others will be arraigned at a later date in Suffolk Superior Court.

Also indicted were: Leo Nault, 50, of Concord, N.H.; Victor Valdez, 46, of Malden; Tonia Schofield, 52, of Billerica; and Telly Cordova, 37, of Brighton.

Nault also is a former paramedic at Trinity EMS in Haverhill; Valdez was a supervisor at Armstrong Ambulance in Arlington; Schofield was a paramedic at Cataldo Ambulance in Somerville; and Cordova is a Boston firefighter.

Prosecutors allege that from 2006 to 2009 the former emergency medical technician instructors and paramedics allowed dozens of EMTs to become improperly recertified by knowingly submitting fraudulent training rosters.

"We allege that the conduct of these individuals severely undermined the state's EMT certification process," Coakley said in a written statement. "The certification process is designed to ensure that emergency medical personnel are properly trained and kept up-to-date with the constantly evolving medical skills necessary for emergency treatment. These acts posed a risk to public safety and public health and our office is continuing our probe into this matter."

Mayor James Fiorentini said he has been waiting for the indictments before taking disciplinary action against the 29 Haverhill firefighters implicated in the scheme. All 29 had their EMT certifications suspended earlier this year by the state for various lengths of time. The suspensions put the men in violation of a city ordinance that requires Haverhill firefighters to be EMT certified.

Fiorentini said he will begin the "disciplinary process" against the 29 firefighters immediately by asking fire Chief Richard Borden for recommendations. The firefighters may appeal any discipline by asking for a local hearing under civil service rules. Previously, the mayor had said lengthy suspensions or terminations were possible. He declined to speculate on punishments yesterday, however.

All told, more than 200 EMTs and paramedics across Massachusetts have been implicated by the state in falsifying training records.

The attorney general's press release said "referrals will be made to employers to determine the appropriate course of remedial and disciplinary action to be taken regarding all EMTs who are currently working without being properly certified."

Paramedics and EMTs are required to complete "mandatory continuing education" and either a 24-hour refresher course or a 48-hour refresher course every two years for recertification, according to state officials. In Haverhill, firefighters receive an extra $1,800 per year to be EMTs and $3,100 extra to be paramedics.

Fiorentini fired Given in mid-September, following an Aug. 2 public hearing at City Hall at which Given refused to testify. In his ruling, the mayor called Given the "facilitator" and "bagman" in a scheme that allowed EMTs to lie about their training.

"The record indicates that Mr. Given was a key player in this scheme to falsify documents and obtain bogus licenses for himself, other Haverhill firefighters and Trinity Ambulance employees, where he also was employed," reads the mayor's ruling. "As a facilitator, Given was a key spoke in the scheme to defraud the Commonwealth and the city."

According to a report from attorney David Grunebaum, who the city hired to hear its case against Given, the former firefighter visited fire stations to collect a "fee" and firefighters' signatures on training course attendance rosters. He then met Nault in a downtown garage, where money and documents were exchanged, the report said.

"(Given's) actions damaged the reputation of our city and the Haverhill Fire Department, put lives at risk and put the careers of the firefighters he allowed or induced to engage in this scheme at risk," Fiorentini wrote in his termination ruling. "Probably worst of all, Mr. Given's actions damaged the reputation of all of our many hardworking and honest employees who did not cut corners."

Haverhill officials have said their case against Given and other city firefighters was aided by an investigation by the Office of Emergency Medical Services, which is a division of the state Public Safety Department. Grunebaum's report said Given and Nault admitted their roles in the recertification scheme to state investigators.

Written by The Eagle-Tribune

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix