Paramedic and EMT Plead Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Participation in Fraudulent EMT Recertification Scheme
EMT Instructor Who Led Classes Also Pled Guilty and Sentenced for Lead Role in Scheme
Today, Victor Valdez, age 47, of Malden, and Jeffrey Given, age 42, of Haverhill, pled guilty in Suffolk Superior Court for their roles in the fraudulent EMT recertification scheme. On May 17, 2011, EMT instructor Leo Nault, age 51, of Concord, New Hampshire, pled guilty to 16 separate charges of emergency services violations and three indictments charging conspiracy. Nault was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in the House of Correction, with the sentence suspended for a probationary period of one year. He was also ordered to pay a total of $16,000 in fines.
After today's pleas were entered, Superior Court Judge Charles Hely sentenced Valdez and Given on the following charges:
VICTOR VALDEZ, age 47, Malden
Valdez worked as an EMT and supervisor at Armstrong Ambulance in Arlington, Massachusetts. Valdez collected signatures on several of Nault's attendance rosters from multiple EMTs who worked with him, and through an intermediary obtained additional signatures of multiple public safety employees as well. Valdez then gave these rosters to Nault. Valdez also signed his own name as an attendee on one set of these rosters in order to receive recertification despite not having taken the required refresher course.
Judge Hely sentenced Valdez to one year of unsupervised probation on the charge of Conspiracy to Commit OEMS Violations (2 counts). Valdez was also ordered to pay a total of $6,000 in fines on the charges of Aiding and Abetting the Making of False Statements in Documents Submitted to OEMS (5 counts), and Violating an OEMS Requirement.
JEFFREY GIVEN, age 42, Haverhill
Given worked as a paramedic at Trinity Ambulance in Haverhill and was also a Haverhill firefighter. Given collected signatures from fellow firefighters on several of Nault's rosters. These "refresher" courses were either not taught by Nault, or taught but not attended by the firefighters. Given also signed rosters to falsely obtain refresher credit for himself. Given was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation on the charge of Conspiracy to Commit OEMS Violations. Judge Hely also ordered Given to pay a total of $5,000 in fines on the charges of Aiding and Abetting the Making of False Statements in Documents Submitted to OEMS (4 counts) and Violating an OEMS Requirement.
Following a months-long investigation, investigators discovered that in the four years from 2006 to 2009 the EMT instructor and four other individuals charged in this case allowed dozens of EMTs to become improperly recertified by knowingly submitting official attendance rosters that falsely attested they had attended a "refresher." In at least 16 instances the so-called refresher course was either not held at all or held but not in full, or attended by only a portion of the EMTs whose names appeared on the rosters.
In Massachusetts, there are three levels of EMTs: Basic, Intermediate, and Paramedic. The Emergency Medical Services statute and accompanying regulations require all EMTs to be licensed. Once initially certified, EMTs are required by the Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) regulations to renew their certificates every two years. To qualify for recertification, individuals holding EMT Basic certification are required during each two-year cycle to complete mandatory continuing education (CE) and a 24-hour refresher course. EMT Paramedics, consistent with their correspondingly greater treatment responsibilities, must complete mandatory CE and a 48-hour refresher course.
Throughout the course of the investigation referrals were 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.
Nault, a paramedic formerly at Trinity Ambulance, in Haverhill, was the central operator of the scheme. Nault sought and received approval from OEMS to teach more than a dozen "refresher" training courses during 2006-2009. Nault rarely taught the course in full, and sometimes not at all. Nault conspired with the other defendants to gather EMT signatures on the attendance rosters for the refresher courses, which he then submitted to OEMS falsely certifying more than 200 individuals whose names appeared on those attendance sheets, thus enabling them to qualify for recertification.
The refresher course is based on a national standard curriculum developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is divided into six modules that cover the following areas of basic patient medical care:
- Preparatory (including scene safety, lifting and moving patients, consent, refusal);
- Airway (including opening the airway, suctioning, resuscitation techniques);
- Patient assessment (including initial assessment, patient history, physical exam);
- Medical/behavioral (including general pharmacology, breathing difficulty, cardiac, diabetic, allergic, poisoning/overdose and behavioral emergencies);
- Trauma (including shock, wounds, burns, bone/joint injuries, and head/spine injuries);
- Obstetrics, infants and children.
Continuing education classes provide additional supplemental training and education to help EMTs stay current with the constant growth and development in the field of emergency medical care, including courses on things like recreational drugs, mass casualty training, incident command training, OSHA update, and HIPAA privacy training. The training requirements must be completed by December 31 st of the second year of the two-year cycle.
A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against all four defendants on November 10, 2010. Another defendant, paramedic Tonia Schofield, age 53, of Billerica, is charged with Aiding and Abetting the Making of False Statements in Documents Submitted to OEMS (4 counts), Violating an OEMS Requirement, and Conspiracy to Commit OEMS Violations. She is due back in court on July 11, 2011.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Molly Parks and Marina Moriarty, both of AG Coakley's Corruption and Fraud Division. It was investigated by Paul Stewart, Chief of the AG's Financial Investigations Division, other investigators within the Division, and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office. Victim Witness Advocate Ashley Cinelli also assisted on the case.