Another Liberty Twp. firefighter on leave amid drug investigation

27 Investigates

Capt. Cathy Macchione was also demoted to Captain from Captain Inspector

Cathy Macchione, Liberty Twp. Firefighter

LIBERTY TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Another Liberty Township firefighter is on paid administrative leave for what the township’s attorney said was part of the internal investigation into reports that some firefighters were using, buying and selling prescriptions drugs while on the job.

Capt. Cathy Macchione was also demoted to Captain from Captain Inspector, according to the attorney.

Two township firefighters — Lt. Justin Graham and Lt. Josh Cleland — resigned, and Capt. Chris Olson is retiring with a separation agreement as the township began investigating firefighter John Beard’s suspected overdose death.

Investigators say they found that Graham and Cleland were using multiple drugs that weren’t prescribed to them while on the job, and buying and selling them at the station. 

Olson denied knowing about firefighters passing pills to each other at the station but investigators said text conversations show not only was he aware, but he participated.

According to new documents that WKBN received, investigators were looking at text messages from Macchione to the firefighter who died. The investigation is looking into Beard’s death as being related to a potential overdose, though a cause of death ruling hasn’t been made yet.

According to the investigation documents, Macchione texted the firefighter about exchanges of “Smurfberries,” which Macchione referred to as her prescription for Klonopin.

“Got any Smurf Berries burning a hole in your pocket? I’m running low on Xannies,” read a text to Beard to Macchione. Macchione responded, “Lol I’ll see what I have here.”

Macchione stated that she only vaguely remembered text messages about Smurf berries but denied ever sharing or receiving medication from another firefighter, according to the documents. Macchione advised that she, Olson and the firefighter all saw the same doctor, and it was common knowledge among members of the LFD as to what medications everyone was on.

Macchione claimed that she was not aware of sharing of pills within the Liberty Fire Department.

Investigators noted in their report that evidence showed that Beard was even trading and selling narcotics with others outside the fire department, including with an unnamed police officer outside of their jurisdiction.

Investigators also noted in their report that Cleland had a previous case by the Youngstown Drug Enforcement Agency for the distribution of cocaine in 2009. Other previous charges included a felony theft charge and criminal damaging charge in 2000; domestic violence, resisting arrest and drug paraphernalia in 2003; and driving while under the influence in 2007.

Thursday, police raided Cleland’s home, but details on that raid weren’t immediately available.

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