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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 7, 2010

Rescue worker nabbed for stealing from squad

By Anne Hayden

ALTAMONT — Paula Dunnells, a supervisor for the Altamont Rescue Squad, has been arrested for falsifying business records on payroll slips, and for grand and petit larceny.

Tom DiNovo, the attorney representing the Altamont Rescue Squad, said the theft was discovered through a routine audit. As soon it was brought to the squad’s attention, the squad turned the matter over to the Guilderland Police Department, said DiNovo. He estimated that the police had been conducting the investigation for several weeks to a month.

Captain Curtis Cox of the Guilderland Police said Dunnells, 38, had been arrested on Dec. 17, for two counts of petit larceny, a misdemeanor. The petit larceny charges were the results of unpaid cell phone bills, and submitting holiday pay hours for overtime, said Cox.

Dunells was also arrested on two counts of grand larceny, and 15 counts of falsifying business records, both felonies. Cox said Dunnells was falsifying payroll slips in order to receive extra salary.

According to DiNovo, Dunnells was an emergency medical technician, but also had administrative responsibilities, which is how she was able to get access to the paperwork. He said the rescue squad has since instituted internal controls for the bookkeeping to prevent any future theft.

The squad is staffed partly by volunteers and is financed both through tax money and contributions.

Dunnells, who declined to comment, was featured in an Enterprise story three years ago, focusing on her role as squad supervisor.

She said then that her career as an emergency medical worker began when she was a brand-new mother. She was 19 and worried after her infant son fell in his carrier on the sidewalk. She called for help and, because she lived in Westmere, the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad answered her call and calmed her fears.

Her son was fine and she decided to volunteer to help.

“Five kids later, I’m still doing it,” said Dunnells in 2007. Her children now range in age from 6 to 19. Dunnells’s entire family is involved in rescue work, she said.

“My husband works with me; he’s out in the rig now,” said Dunnells in 2007. Kevin Dunnells is an emergency medical technician. They live in Berne.

The Altamont squad, in 2007, had 17 volunteer members. During the daytime, the staff is paid, but, at night, volunteers are used.

DiNovo said the Altamont Rescue Squad has cooperated fully with the Guilderland Police, and will leave the matter entirely in the department’s hands. Cox said the investigation is ongoing.

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