TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida crime lab analyst was arrested Tuesday and charged with stealing and selling painkillers and other drugs that he was supposed to be testing as evidence in criminal cases, the state law enforcement agency said.
Joseph Graves was arrested a day after he resigned from his position at a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab in Pensacola. He was charged with grand theft of a controlled substance, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and nine counts of trafficking in illegal drugs and was being held on $290,000 bond.
The department began an investigation after the Escambia County deputies discovered drug evidence was missing. A further look found other cases Graves handled where painkillers were swapped out with non-prescription drugs.
Graves is accused of selling oxycodone, morphine and hydromorphone. More charges could be added as the investigation continues.
Law enforcement department Commissioner Gerald Bailey has said hundreds of drug cases may be compromised.
“The actions of Joseph Graves are disgraceful. FDLE is working with State Attorneys’ Offices statewide to ensure he is held accountable for his actions,” Bailey said in a news release.
Graves’ attorney didn’t immediately return a message for comment.
Graves began working for the department in December 2005 and was promoted to supervisor in 2009. He has handled about 2,600 cases, most of which are drug related. The compromised cases could possibly affect 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties that had cases worked on by Graves.
The department is using agents from each of its offices to review all the cases handled by the chemist and has contacted state attorneys and law enforcement agencies across the state that have pending cases that could be compromised.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys reached Monday agreed that the thefts could create massive problems for courts and law enforcement agencies throughout Florida and could result in some convictions being thrown out and sentences reduced.
The department is reviewing its drug-testing program to try to prevent something similar from happening. One idea may be to increase employee drug testing, Bailey said Saturday when announcing details of the investigation. Right now, employees are drug tested when they are hired, but not again unless they have reason to suspect they are abusing drugs.