Days after his arrest was made public, a high-ranking fire official for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District was charged with felony embezzlement and drug possession, court records show.
Martinez resident Richard P. Stephenson, 50, faces two counts of felony embezzlement and two misdemeanor drug possession charges, alleging he was found with the opiate-based painkiller fentanyl and a sleeping aid, midazolam. Stephenson is the chief of Emergency Medical Services for the district, but was put on administrative leave following his arrest.
A Contra Costa County district attorney's news release says that the embezzlement charges "relate to Mr. Stephenson stealing controlled substances belonging to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District in order to support his personal drug addiction."
Publicly available records show Stephenson had a prior brush with the law, and was twice disciplined by the state's Emergency Medical Services Authority, having his EMT certification suspended and his paramedic license revoked in 2009. In 2004, Stephenson was charged with felony stalking and battery in two separate incidents, but took a plea deal in 2005 to misdemeanor fighting.
Stephenson was arrested last week—after he checked himself into a detox facility—when his roommate discovered fentanyl vials in Stephenson's laundry basket, police said.
Investigators spoke with ConFire employees, one of whom said he suspected Stephenson was using his master key to access areas that contained addictive prescription drugs.
But ConFire public information officer Steve Hill said the district had inspected areas where drugs are kept and "our extensive preliminary investigation has found that public safety has not been compromised in any way."
"While we are confident no compromise of public safety related to these medications has occurred, we have immediately put in place safeguards to ensure no future compromise can occur," Hill said in a written statement.
Police said in court records that Stephenson possessed "hundreds" of vials of fentanyl, and that it appeared to be an amount "well beyond" personal use. Prosecutors, though, filed misdemeanor possession charges that do not allege he was selling narcotics.
In 2008, the Emergency Medical Services Authority filed an accusation against Stephenson alleging that he had lied about his conviction, alleging he lied in a 2006 paramedic license renewal application when he signed his name next to a handwritten note that said, "I do not have any convictions." The accusation alleges he was charged with stalking in August 2004 when he followed his ex-wife to a hotel, and "confronted" responding officers.
Three months later, the accusations allege, Stephenson got into an argument with his girlfriend and shoved her into a dresser. In both cases, he was convicted of misdemeanor fighting counts in plea deals with the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office. The documents also accuse Stephenson of using cocaine and marijuana.
According to public records, Stephenson obtained his paramedic license in 1991 and joined ConFire in 2012. He was promoted to fire captain in 2013, and again to EMS chief in 2017. His job gave him access to key codes as well as a master key in areas where prescription drugs were stored for emergency purposes, as well as drug disposal bins.