TONAWANDA, N.Y. — Two Town of Tonawanda paramedics have now been fired after they were accused of stealing prescription drugs.
Town of Tonawanda police say paramedics Jon Cinelli and Jeremy Pecoraro stole the drugs from the drug deposit container inside the police headquarters. According to an initial police press release, the two men were arrested Friday night for criminal possession of a controlled substance.
However, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said Tuesday morning that Cinelli had not been charged and is still under investigation.
Tonawanda police sent a subsequent email message confirming that.
According to the DA, Jeremy Pecoraro has been charged with a misdemeanor drug charge.
Police say Cinelli was first suspected of stealing drugs after he was allegedly found emptying the drug collection bin alone, which is against the department's policy requiring two paramedics empty the bin together.
Police Chief Jerome Uschold then ordered an internal investigation. During the investigation of Cinelli, police say they discovered Pecoraro was stealing the painkillers.
The department says investigators believe that Cinelli and Peroraro were keeping the drugs to support their opioid addiction and not to sell them to others.
"I really can't address that, because then we get into HIPAA things," Tonawanda Town Supervisor Joe Emminger said.
Emminger and the town board approved a resolution on Monday clearing the way for the police chief to take disciplinary action against the two, who were initially suspended, have since been terminated by the town.
Emminger suspects those will occur in due time.
"The information that I have is that they have admitted to what they were doing ... so I don't think there's a possibility of them being exonerated," Emminger told WGRZ-TV.
Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the union of which the two paramedics are members urged the public not to rush to judgment.
"We're going to be represent these individuals and defending them based on facts, not on conjecture or allegations," said Paul D Weiss, the attorney for the Town of Tonawanda Salaried Workers Association.
"There are allegations that are being made out there, and nobody is saying the allegations are accurate or that the facts support those allegations or don't," Weiss said.
However, Weiss noted his involvement will be limited to making sure the two suspended paramedics are given every accord under labor laws and existing rights as union employees.
They will have to find their own attorneys to represent them in any criminal action, and pay for them at their own cost.
Both paramedics were suspended with pay Monday morning after a meeting with police brass and their union representatives.
Paramedics Supervisor Mike Baumgartner, who was also at the meeting, declined comment, directing all inquiries to police officials.
Cinelli has worked for the department for the past 22 and a half years. Pecoraro has worked as a Town of Tonawanda paramedic for four and a half years.
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