Mass. police: crime lab chemist stole drug evidence - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Mass. police: crime lab chemist stole drug evidence

Posted: Updated:

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) - A chemist at a state crime lab tampered with drug evidence, authorities said Sunday in Massachusetts, where a chemist at another lab was accused last year of faking test results in a scandal that threw thousands of criminal cases into question.
    
Sonja Farak, who works at a lab in Amherst, in western Massachusetts, removed from a case file a substance that tested positive for cocaine and replaced it with one that didn't, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said. Evidence suggests Farak stole drugs that had already been tested, prosecutors said.
    
Farak, of Northampton, was arrested Saturday. She also is charged with possession of heroin and cocaine.
    
The lab contacted state police on Friday to report a discrepancy in inventory, Coakley said at a Boston news conference. Officials do not believe Farak's tampering will undermine evidence, she said.
    
"On its face, the allegations against this chemist do not implicate the reliability of testing done or fairness to defendants," she said.
    
Last month, the other chemist, Annie Dookhan, was indicted on 27 charges in a case that threatens to unravel thousands of drug convictions. Dookhan, of Franklin, resigned in March during an internal investigation by the state Department of Public Health. She has pleaded not guilty.
    
State police said they closed the Boston lab where she worked in August after taking over its operation and discovering the extent of her misconduct.
    
The accusations against Farak, unlike those against Dookhan, don't involve falsification of tests or dry labbing, visually identifying samples instead of performing required chemical testing, the attorney general said.
    
Farak does not have a listed phone number, and it was unclear whether she had a lawyer.
    
The Amherst lab has been closed temporarily, and chemists will be transferred to Sudbury, state police said.
    
The state's district attorneys said they were undertaking internal case reviews to determine which, if any, of their prosecutions involved Farak.
    
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association said Sunday prosecutors remain committed to ensuring the rights of defendants are respected and will remain proactive in identifying possibly compromised cases and notifying defense attorneys.
    
The association said the fallout from the Dookhan case includes experienced prosecutors being taken out of rotation to serve on Department of Public Health task forces. It urged lawmakers to give prosecutors the resources they need to ensure "proper functioning" of the state's criminal justice system.
    
Farak is due to be arraigned Tuesday in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown.

  • Top StoriesMore>>

  • breaking news

    Jury finds Amanda Bacon guilty in death of her son

    Jury finds Amanda Bacon guilty in death of her son

    Friday, April 18 2014 2:38 PM EDT2014-04-18 18:38:34 GMT
    The jury found Amanda Bacon guilty in the murder of her son. She was found guilty of murder and child endangerment charges. She was not found guilty of aggravated murder. Amanda Bacon was charged with
    The jury has found Amanda Bacon guilty in the murder of her son. The jury returned a guilty verdict on murder and child endangerment charges. Bacon was not found guilty of aggravated murder.
  • Water rescue at Farnsworth Metropark in Waterville

    Water rescue at Farnsworth Metropark in Waterville

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:22 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:22:57 GMT
    Waterville crews are trying to reach passengers on a boat stuck on the Maumee River. It's happening near Farnsworth Metropark in Waterville. No one is hurt, but a family is stuck on a boat that has been
    Waterville crews are trying to reach passengers on a boat stuck on the Maumee River. It's happening near Farnsworth Metropark in Waterville.
  • Missing boater's father: "We just want to get him home"

    Missing boater's father: "We just want to get him home"

    Friday, April 18 2014 4:05 PM EDT2014-04-18 20:05:37 GMT
    We are learning more about the two remaining missing boaters on Lake Erie. Bryan Huff of Rossford is an experienced fisherman. His dad says he lived on the lake. Andrew Rose of Maumee works as a bartender
    ODNR and the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office continue combing Lake Erie for the missing men using sonar equipment.

Area Events Calendar

See It, Shoot It, Send It!