Former EMT Instructor Pleads Guilty, Sentenced in Connection with Fraudulent EMT Recertification Scheme
BOSTON – A former Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) instructor has pleaded guilty in connection with submitting training records that falsely showed dozens of emergency personnel attended courses they were required to complete in order to maintain their certification, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Thomas Codair, Sr., age 50, of Medford, an EMT instructor who taught refresher training courses to police officers and firefighters, pleaded guilty on Friday in Suffolk Superior Court on charges of OEMS Violations [False Statements in Documents/Aiding and Abetting Others to Evade OEMS Requirements] (4 counts) and Conspiracy to Commit OEMS Violation (1 count). After the plea was entered, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet L. Sanders sentenced Codair to two-and-a-half years in the House of Correction and imposed a $1,000 fine on each of the four EMT violations. The Judge then suspended the jail sentence, provided that Codair does not violate probation for a one year period.
“This defendant put the public’s health and safety at risk by running a scheme that falsely certified emergency personnel,” said AG Coakley. “Proper certification ensures that emergency personnel are properly trained and equipped with the medical skills necessary for emergency treatment.”
The top four executives of a local ambulance company were also charged for their roles in allegedly taking advantage of Codair’s scheme. Codair’s co-defendants are Brian Connor, age 50, of Arlington; Jonathan Kulis, age 37, of Wilmington; Michael McPherson age 38, of Billerica; and Brian O’Connor age 39, of Woburn. These co-defendants are the President/CEO, Chief Operating Officer, and Vice Presidents, respectively, of LifeLine Ambulance in Woburn. The men are each charged with OEMS Violation [False Statements to OEMS/Evade OEMS Requirements] and Conspiracy to Commit OEMS Violation.
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.
In December 2008, the Attorney General’s Office began the first phase of its investigation into fraudulent EMT recertification. That investigation culminated with the indictments of the former Police Chief of the Hamilton Police Department (HPD); a former Wenham Police Department Lieutenant and Ipswich Selectman; the training coordinator for the Danvers-based Lyons Ambulance Service (Lyons), who is the retired Fire Chief of Middleton and Ipswich, and; a former reserve police office from HPD who conducted Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training. The two instructors in that case, Henry Michalski, Jr. and David Mastrianni, have since pleaded guilty.
The second phase of the AG’s investigation resulted in the indictment of five people: EMT instructor Leo Nault, two paramedics, and two EMTs for their roles in a similar fraudulent scheme. Nault pleaded guilty in May 2011 to charges of emergency services violations and three indictments charging conspiracy and received a two-and-a-half year suspended House of Correction sentence with probation for one year, and ordered to pay fines totaling $16,000. A paramedic and two EMTs, Victor Valdez, Jeffrey Given and Tonia Schofield, have also pleaded guilty in that case.
In the next phase of the investigation, authorities discovered another widespread scheme to fraudulently recertify EMTs without their having completed the required refresher course. Investigation revealed that Codair was the central figure in this scheme. Codair was an EMT formerly at Armstrong Ambulance and he taught four refresher training courses between 2006 and 2009. Codair held the courses at the Medford Police Training Academy, and for those particular courses, Codair permitted EMTs to sign course rosters without attending the course. Codair then submitted the rosters to OEMS, falsely certifying all signers’ attendance at those courses, thus enabling the signers to qualify for recertification.
Authorities also allege that Connor, Kulis, McPherson and O’Connor each signed attendance rosters for a 2007 refresher course without having attended any of the classes. Codair then submitted the rosters to OEMS for credit. The four men each relied on OEMS granting them credit for having attended the 2007 refresher in applying for, and obtaining EMT 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:
(1) Preparatory (including scene safety, lifting and moving patients, consent, refusal);
(2) Airway (including opening the airway, suctioning, resuscitation techniques);
(3) Patient assessment (including initial assessment, patient history, physical exam);
(4) medical/behavioral (including general pharmacology, breathing difficulty, cardiac, diabetic, allergic, poisoning/overdose and behavioral emergencies);
(5) Trauma (including shock, wounds, burns, bone/joint injuries, and head/spine injuries);
(6) 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 that focus on recreational drugs, mass casualty training, incident command training, OSHA update, and HIPAA privacy training. The training requirements must be completed by December 31st of the second year of the two-year cycle.
A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against all five defendants on April 28, 2011. On Friday, Codair pleaded guilty and was sentenced.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Marina Moriarty of AG Coakley’s Public Integrity Division, and Assistant Attorney General Dave Andrews, Chief of AG Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division. It was investigated by AG Coakley’s Financial Investigations Division and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office. Ashley Cinelli was the Victim Witness Advocate on the case.