Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

FDLE crime lab chemist may have stolen drug evidence; 2,600 cases in 35 counties under investigation

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Saturday it is investigating 2,600 cases handled by a Pensacola-based agency chemist after discovering dozens of instances where prescription pain pills that were seized by police and tested as evidence were swapped with over-the-counter pills.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the chemist handled cases involving 80 law enforcement agencies from 35 counties since he was hired in 2006. Most, but not all, of the cases involved testing drug evidence, though it was not immediately clear how many cases might be compromised.

The situation was discovered after Escambia County investigators realized evidence was missing and later found other evidence packages where prescription pills had been substituted with non-prescription pills.

It potentially means drug charges will have to be dropped and prisoners released if it's determined the chemist tampered with evidence, Bailey said.

"This has the potential of impacting hundreds of drug cases across our state," Bailey told reporters. "This is a total shock and a disappointment."

The department is using agents from each of its offices to review all the cases handled by the chemist, who is on paid leave while under criminal investigation. He is not being identified while under investigation, but Bailey said he hopes charges are brought quickly, at which point the chemist will be fired.

The department is contacting state attorneys and law enforcement agencies across the state that have pending cases that could be compromised.

"We are going back and looking at each case that was worked and we are going to the evidence rooms of sheriff's departments and police departments around the state and actually physically looking — especially at the prescription meds — to see if what is in that particular package is in fact a prescription medication and not in fact an over-the-counter calcium tablet," Bailey said.

Bailey said the agency doesn't yet know the motive. The chemist isn't cooperating with the investigation.

"The quantities are large," Bailey said. "It's early in the investigation. We don't know if the individual is a user or a trafficker."

The department is reviewing its drug testing program to try to prevent similar incidents. One idea may be to increase employee drug testing, Bailey said. Right now, employees are drug tested when they are hired, but not again unless they have reason to suspect they are abusing drugs.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has offered to assist in the investigation.

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is a top notch law enforcement agency. I continue to have complete confidence in them and their work. This situation simply underlines the extent of the problem our country faces with prescription drug abuse," Bondi said.

Comments
Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

LARGO — Sydney Pender, 27, loved riding her motorcycle, even though she knew the dangers. Three years ago, her friend said, a delivery truck hit her. But she kept riding. On Thanksgiving, it was a crash with a taxi cab that killed her.Pender, a St. P...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature’s Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.The cause of the depression is unclear, but the intersection was blocked off to traffic.Hillsborough C...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Published: 11/23/17

Hernando deputies make arrest after finding body of dead woman Wednesday

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County sheriff’s deputies arrested a 32-year-old man Wednesday who they say killed a woman.Joshua Carroll, 32, faces a charge of second-degree murder.Deputies found the body of the woman, who was not identified, at 15013 Old St...
Published: 11/22/17
Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

Tampa husband gets life, wife 40 years for sexual assault on 7-year-old

TAMPA — The mother of a 7-year-old girl stood weeping in a federal courtroom, demanding lifelong prison sentences for the Tampa couple who sexually assaulted her daughter while the girl’s own father took videos and pictures. "I don’t want my child to...
Published: 11/22/17
Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

Details emerge in suicide of Hernando school volunteer accused of sexual abuse

A former Brooksville school volunteer accused of sexually assaulting teenage foreign exchange students who were under his care was found dead last week, a day before he was due in court on the charges.The body of Bruce McAllister was found at the bas...
Published: 11/22/17
Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

Fire sends smoke through roof of Brass Flamingo adult club in Port Richey

PORT RICHEY — Crews from Pasco County fire rescue were battling a fire Wednesday morning that sent smoke pouring through the roof at the Brass Flamingo adult club, 9034 U.S. 19.The fire forced the closing of U.S. 19 but traffic was flowing again by 6...
Published: 11/22/17
Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

Mountains beckon, but family sticks with beleaguered Seminole Heights for Thanksgiving this year

TAMPA — Before the killings began, Bob and Vivian Fiallo envisioned having Thanksgiving at their North Carolina mountain getaway.Most years, the couple spends the holiday at their tidy, brick-faced home on North Olney Avenue, in the heart of Southeas...
Published: 11/22/17
Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

Report: Pepin Academies director had alcohol in his system at time of fatal boating accident

CLEARWATER — The former Pepin Academies executive director who died in a watercraft and boat collision on Sept. 23 had a blood-alcohol level nearly twice the level at which the state presumes someone is impaired, a toxicology report showed. Just befo...
Published: 11/21/17