FDLE chemist under investigation for evidence tampering

Criminal investigation launched

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - A Florida crime lab employee has resigned during an investigation into missing drug evidence.

Joseph Graves submitted a resignation letter Monday, two days after the agency announced an investigation into missing evidence that could compromise hundreds of cases.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner announced that it has begun a review of all cases, including several in Central Florida, processed by a chemist in the Pensacola Regional Crime Laboratory.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said last week that the agency began an investigation into missing prescription pain pills from the evidence room at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office. 

The missing drugs had been replaced with over-the-counter medications, officials said.

On Thursday, investigators determined that each case with missing drugs had been analyzed by one Pensacola chemist, officials said. 

The FDLE Office of Executive Investigations has opened a criminal investigation, Bailey said in a news conference held Saturday.

"(It) could be (for his) personal use.  (It) could be trafficking.  It could be each of those, we don't know," agents said.

The FDLE is reviewing evidence from all cases handled by this chemist between 2006 and present.  The review includes cases in Lake, Marion and Osceola counties.

Each regional special agent in charge is contacting local law enforcement leaders and state attorneys so that they may take appropriate action regarding pending cases. 

Beginning Monday, FDLE teams will be deployed to impacted agencies to inspect all evidence handled by the chemist to confirm cases potentially compromised.  The chemist worked nearly 2,600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies spanning 35 counties and 12 judicial circuits.   

Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi said the case presents a major concern because of the extent of prescription drug abuse in the country.

"I applaud Commissioner Bailey and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their swift and direct response to this situation," Bondi said.

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