| TALLAHASSEE, Fla.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Feb 1 Florida's state police
agency on Saturday announced a massive evidence review in
thousands of drug cases handled by one crime-laboratory chemist,
saying its findings could lead to some criminal cases being
quashed and drug dealers set free.
The chemist is suspected of taking illegal drugs out of
evidence storage and replacing them with over-the-counter
medication, the agency said.
"It could be for personal use. It could be for trafficking.
We don't know," Gerald Bailey, head of the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement (FDLE), said at a news conference.
Bailey declined to identify the FDLE chemist, who was
ordered to take vacation and accrued compensatory leave time
pending disposition of the case.
He said the man has hired an attorney and is not cooperating
in the investigation. He said the chemist will be fired if a
case is documented.
"We've identified nearly 2,600 cases spanning 35 counties
that chemist processed between 2006 and the present day," Bailey
"So far, we've identified several dozen evidence submissions
where prescription drugs were substituted with over-the-counter
medications. This has the potential of impacting hundreds of
drug cases across our state."
Bailey said the investigation began when the Escambia County
Sheriff's Office reported missing evidence in several drug cases
Last Thursday, he said, it was determined that one chemist
had handled laboratory submissions in which substances believed
to be illegal drugs were replaced.
Bailey said there was no indication that the chemist was
bribed to tamper with evidence and get cases dismissed.
Bailey said he never would have suspected the man, hired in
2006, of any wrongdoing.
"This is a shock and a disappointment," he said.
"This individual would have been way down on my list of
potential bad apples."
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz)