FDLE employee resigns as pill investigation widens - FOX 13 News

FDLE employee resigns as pill investigation widens

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WESLEY CHAPEL (FOX 13) -

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 Law Enforcement Department confirmed the resignation of a chemist who is suspected of substituting non-prescription drugs for prescription painkillers. When The Associated Press asked for the suspect's resignation letter, the department released a copy of Graves' letter.

The agency is now reviewing 2,600 cases the employee handled involving 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties. The suspect has not been formally charged.

Contact information for Graves could not immediately be located.

No one really knows how much damage has been done after an FDLE chemist was accused of stealing drugs seized as evidence.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey says the investigation is just beginning.

"So far we have identified 12 evidence submissions where prescription drugs were substituted with over the counter medications," Bailey said.

That may be the very tiny tip of a very big iceberg. In fact, thousands of cases may be affected, including some in Pasco and Hernando counties.

Both agencies tell us they are still waiting to see which specific cases investigators plan to review.

But FDLE says they are all drug cases, involving an agency chemist, dating all the way back to 2006.

"We are going back and looking at each case that was worked, and going to the evidence room to the sheriff's departments and police departments around the state, " Bailey said.

Tampa Attorney Anthony Rickman says this major breach is a huge problem.

"It's going to be a very big problem going forward on cases," Rickman said.

Rickman believes the evidence tampering could overturn thousands of drug convictions and jeopardize pending cases.

"Those cases are going to go away, and they won't be able to prove the charge if they don't have the drugs, because that is an element of that case. To prove the weight, to prove that is was a controlled substance, and if that narcotic is missing they can't prove the charge," Rickman said.

The chemist is on paid leave but FDLE says his arrest is imminent.

"He's looking at some very serious charges. It's going to create a big problem for FDLE, " Rickman said.

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