Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Florida crime lab employee resigns amid drug investigation

A state crime lab chemist in north Florida has resigned during an investigation into missing evidence.

Joseph Graves submitted a resignation letter Monday, two days after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced an investigation into missing evidence that could compromise hundreds of cases. He could not be reached for comment.

The FDLE is reviewing 2,600 cases the employee handled involving 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties.

Agencies in the Tampa Bay area are also reviewing their cases. Local agencies typically send their evidence to the Tampa lab, but their cases are sometimes transferred to other state labs to balance out workloads, said FDLE spokeswoman Samantha Andrews.

The Hernando Sheriff's Office conducted a preliminary investigation and reported Monday that the number of affected cases is possibly fewer than five.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office hasn't found any cases in Pinellas County. In Pasco, prosecutors have found only one defendant whose case may be affected by a submittal to the north Florida lab.

Attempts to reach the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office Monday were unsuccessful.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys said Monday that the alleged theft could create massive problems for courts and law enforcement agencies throughout Florida and could result in some convictions being thrown out and sentences reduced. Some said it could taint cases from the department not directly involving the employee.

The chemist under investigation is suspected of substituting non-prescription drugs for prescription painkillers, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said.

No criminal charges have been filed, but an investigation is ongoing.

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