WORCESTER, Mass. -- Princeton Fire Chief David F. Cobb -- the town's first full-time fire chief and its Fire Department's only full-time employee -- was arraigned yesterday on two drug charges in Worcester District Court for allegedly stealing narcotics from the town ambulance.
Chief Cobb, 45, of 100 Cutler Road, in the Jefferson section of Holden, was arraigned on one count of larceny of a drug, and one count of obtaining drugs by fraud. He was released on personal recognizance, and scheduled to return to court Dec. 3.
The investigation into the alleged theft began earlier this year, when pharmacists at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, and Heywood Hospital in Gardner notified state police that "excessive amounts of narcotics were being dispensed to the Princeton Fire Department," according to a state police report included in court records.
State police conducted an audit of the narcotics being dispensed to the Princeton Fire Department, and found that varying amounts of Fentanyl, morphine, Valium and Versed were unaccounted for. Chief Cobb was the primary record keeper of narcotics for the Princeton Fire Department and had signed out the drugs that were dispensed from the two hospitals, the report said.
"He is responsible for replenishing new stock," the report said. There were numerous "questionable" log notes that indicated that narcotics were picked up, but that they were "wasted." There were no corresponding log entries about how the drugs were wasted, the report said. In several instances, the narcotics count for the Princeton ambulance was changed without explanation, the report noted.
According to the police report, the fraud occurred on or about May 31 of this year. State police attempted to interview Mr. Cobb "with negative results," the report said.
State Trooper Brenda Watts wrote that a photo of Chief Cobb, and a photo of another man, were shown to pharmacy employees at the two hospitals. Three of the employees, two at St. Vincent Hospital and one at Heywood Hospital, identified Mr. Cobb as the man to whom they dispensed the narcotics. Three other employees could not identify Chief Cobb.
Chief Cobb, whom Princeton selectmen placed on paid administrative leave in July, had been appointed the town's first full-time fire chief in January, according to Town Administrator John Lebeaux. Police notified the town of the investigation in June, he said.
Chief Cobb had previously served as a full-time firefighter/paramedic for the town of Holden, and had been a part-time lieutenant and firefighter in Princeton. Besides the chief, the town's firefighters are part-time, on-call firefighters, Mr. Lebeaux said.
"I'm continuing the discussion with selectmen about how the town will proceed," Mr. Lebeaux said yesterday. When Chief Cobb was placed on administrative leave, John Bennett was promoted to acting fire chief, he said.
In 2010, Chief Cobb was one of two local firefighters charged with illegally transporting cut wood out of the Asian longhorned beetle quarantine area.
Chief Cobb, then a resident of Princeton and a Holden firefighter/paramedic, owned a side business called Branch Manager Tree Service. He and another firefighter were found to have transported cut wood from a site in Worcester, which was inside the quarantine zone, to a site in Princeton, which is outside the quarantine zone. Mr. Cobb and Firefighter Andrew S. Dufresne, of Sterling, each admitted to sufficient facts for a guilty finding, and each was ordered to pay $600 in court costs and fees.
Calls for comment to Chief Cobb's tree service business, and to his Worcester-based attorney, John Vigliotti, were not returned.