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Two Tonawanda paramedics suspended after drugs are stolen from drop box

Two Town of Tonawanda paramedics were suspended pending termination proceedings Monday by the Tonawanda Town Board after they were accused of taking discarded prescription drugs from a drug deposit container in the town's police headquarters.

A news release from Tonawanda Police Lt. Thomas Haynes identified them as Jon Cinelli, 52, and Jeremy Pecoraro, 40.

Haynes said the two were arrested Friday night on suspicion of criminal possession of a controlled substance and that they were suspended with pay.

However, a spokeswoman for Erie County District Attorney John Flynn on Tuesday morning said only Pecoraro has been charged with the misdemeanor drug crime, as well as petit larceny and a violation under New York public health law.

Cinelli is under investigation but has not been charged, Kaitlyn Munro said.

Asked Tuesday morning about the correction from the DA's Office, Haynes declined to comment.

Cinelli was suspected, Haynes said in the release, after it was noticed that he was emptying the drug deposit bin alone. Police department policy requires that two paramedics perform the task, Haynes explained. The box is located in the lobby of the town's Police Headquarters at 1835 Sheridan Drive.

An investigation then implicated Pecoraro, he said.

Haynes stated department officials believe the two were keeping the drugs for personal use and were not selling or otherwise distributing them.

Cinelli has been a town paramedic for 22½ years, while Pecoraro has been on the staff for 4½ years.

Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger said that the accusations against the two paramedics were troubling because they provide emergency medical services to the public and, as part of their duties, they have access to painkillers and other medication.

"In light of the fact that they carry opioids in their paramedic vehicles, we would find it very difficult to return them to their positions," he said.

Emminger spoke after Monday's Town Board meeting, where members passed a resolution authorizing the supervisor or police chief to take disciplinary action against the two employees.

The resolution was not on the board meeting agenda that is posted for public review prior to the meeting, but was brought up for action during the meeting.

It was the second incident within the past year involving the theft of drugs from drop boxes in police stations in Kenmore and Tonawanda.

Former Kenmore Police Chief Peter J. Breitnauer was arrested in October for taking hydrocodone from a drop box in the village police station. He pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor charge in U.S. District Court.

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