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Training Instructors Faked Credits as Favor

Training Instructors Faked Credits as Favor

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Boston Globe via YellowBrix

June 28, 2010

BOSTON – Two instructors suspected of falsifying training records for more than 200 emergency medics across Massachusetts told state public health investigators that they were simply trying to help colleagues who did not have the time or money to take the medical refresher courses required to renew their licenses.

State officials reported yesterday that one of the instructors, former Trinity Ambulance employee Leo Nault, initially said he conducted classes, but later admitted that he did not, explaining that he had informal educational conversations with EMTs before granting them credit for a refresher course.

The other instructor, Mark Culleton of Billerica, also admitted he fraudulently gave credit to EMTs without ever holding refresher courses, state officials said. Culleton, a Lexington firefighter, said he “was just trying to help fellow EMTs who were experiencing some hardship,’’ the officials said.

New details about the recertification cases were released yesterday by the state Department of Public Health in response to a public records request from the Globe. According to a report on its monthslong investigation of the falsified training records, the two instructors faked records for 213 emergency medics, from basic level to advanced paramedic. The emergency medical technicians with false training credentials worked for five ambulance companies, including Armstrong, Cataldo Atlantic, and Trinity Ambulance, and a dozen communities, including Boston, Cambridge and Lexington, the report found.

State officials announced last week that the licenses of the EMTs would be suspended for up to nine months, while the instructors have been permanently banned from practicing in Massachusetts. The state turned over the results of its investigation to the attorney general, who could launch a criminal probe. It is illegal to falsify documents related to emergency medical certification.

“This is an embarrassing day, an embarrassing event for municipalities and private agencies,’’ Dennis Cataldo, with Cataldo Atlantic Ambulance Service in Salem, said in an interview yesterday. “This is certainly not an accurate reflection of the work performed by the majority of the 23,000 EMTs and paramedics in the Commonwealth.’’

Cataldo, like most of the other private companies reached yesterday, plans to fire the EMTs named by the state.

Some of the communities who employ the EMTs, including Boston and Lexington, said yesterday that they are conducting investigations before taking disciplinary action.

Nault could not be reached for comment last night. Culleton did not return messages. Culleton’s lawyer, Richard Kendall of North Reading, said last week that he is appealing the license revocation, which could take nine months to a year.

State officials began investigating Nault after his employer, Trinity Ambulance in Lowell, reported to the health agency that several of its EMTs had paid Nault for refresher courses and advanced cardiac life support cards without ever attending a course. Public health investigators began calling everyone listed on attendance rosters for nine courses in question and determined that 170 EMTs signed up and received credit for fictitious classes taught by Nault, the state report says.

In an interview with state investigators, Nault admitted the scheme and said he collected between $50 and $125 each for most of the fraudulent credentials, although “those EMTs who were having financial hardships did not pay any money,’’ officials wrote. In addition, four other EMTs helped Nault collect money and signatures on phony attendance rosters.

Arlington-based Armstrong Ambulance Service employees Victor Valdez and Charles White, Haverhill firefighter and paramedic Jeff Given, and Atlantic Ambulance paramedic Tonia Schofield all admitted collecting signatures and money for Nault, state officials wrote.

Schofield did not return messages left last night seeking comment. Given, White, and Valdez could not be reached.

In Culleton’s case, the Public Health Department received a tip that an employee at Atlantic Ambulance got credit for advanced cardiac life-support training without going to class. Public health officials then reviewed rosters and conducted interviews before determining that 43 EMTs and paramedics received credit without attending training. In some cases, Culleton said he made up fake test scores, the report states.

Scott Moore, chief executive of Armstrong Ambulance, said his company, like municipalities and others who employ EMTs, depend upon the state to properly regulate recertification.

“This isn’t an Armstrong issue. This isn’t a Trinity issue. This isn’t a Cataldo issue,’’ he said. “We rely on the oversight agency.’’