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Evidence Tampering In Florida Criminal Drug Cases Leads to Arrest of FDLE Lab Chemist

During a news conference in Tallahassee on last Saturday Febuary 1st, 2014 The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced an investigation that may result in prosecutors having to drop/quash charges and set free prisoners in an undisclosed number of criminal drug cases throughout the state of Florida. The reason the cases may be compromised resulting in dropped criminal charges in cases is due to alleged tampering by a chemist working in a FDLE agency crime lab since 2006.

According to the Associated Press this alleged tampering escapade involving now former chemist Joseph Graves spread throughout more than 35 counties and involves more than 80 law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Florida.

Escambia County investigators are to be credited for uncovering this alleged crime by former state crime lab chemist later revealed to be Joseph Graves; who was arrested on late Tuesday Feb 4th, 2014.
Immediately, upon investigation, Graves was placed on leave with pay pending investigation but  has since been fired and the former FDLE lab chemist now faces criminal charges of grand theft, 12 counts of tampering with evidence or fabricating it, and nine counts of trafficking in illegal drugs.
Bail for Graves has been set at $290,000. Graves had been a crime lab analyst since late 2005 and was even promoted to a supervisory position in mid 2009 according to reports.

Investigators in Escambia County ( Pensacola, Florida) noticed that evidence was missing and later discovered other evidence packages where prescription pills had been swapped out with non-prescription pills.

This issue is especially a concern for Florida state criminal prosecution teams where drug testing was a prime factor in the evidence and holds much of the prosecutions true weight in a pending drug case.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey says: "This has the potential of impacting hundreds of drug cases across our state," to reporters on Saturday.

Commissioner Bailey declares that  "This is a total shock and a disappointment."

Bailey also confirmed what it means to the departments in terms of the drug charges that will have to be dropped/quashed and prisoners such as drug dealers who will have to be freed/released if it's determined the chemist tampered with evidence in their case.

An investigation is currently underway that involves more than 2,600 cases which may have been impacted by the alleged actions of Mr. Graves. Currently, the department is diligently working to review all of the cases which were handled by Graves as well as contacting state attorneys and law enforcement agencies throughout the state who may have pending criminal drug cases which may be compromised by the evidence tampering incident.

"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 along with confirming that the agency does not yet know the motive likely due to the chemists not cooperating with the investigation.
"The quantities are large," Bailey confirmed along with stating that "It's early in the investigation. We don't know if the individual is a user or a trafficker."

The department is also reviewing drug testing policies along with seeking new ideas for preventing these type incidents. Employees are currently drug tested upon hiring but then it is considered on an “as needed” basis from the aspects of suspicion someone may be using drugs. Attorney General Pam Bondi has shown support and offered her assistance with this investigation in an emailed statement: "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."


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