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Chemist at Amherst Crime Lab Arrested for Tampering with Evidence

Sonja FarakAMHERST, Mass. (WGGB) – A chemist at the Mass. State Crime Laboratory in Amherst has been arrested and charged with allegedly tampering with drug evidence and possessing drugs, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, was arrested Saturday night at her home by state police.

Authorities said the drug lab is charged with storing and analyzing alleged controlled substances seized by local and state police. On Friday, members of the Amherst Laboratory contacted State Police to report a discrepancy in the controlled substance inventory held in evidence.

Authorities allege that Farak tampered with drug evidence at the lab. In one instance, it appeared that the defendant had removed a substance from a case that had previously tested positive for cocaine and replaced it with a counterfeit substance that no longer tested positive.

“We allege that this chemist tampered with evidence, placing the integrity of that evidence in question,” said AG Coakley.

Farak previously worked at the state crime lab in Jamaica Plain. She was moved to the Amherst lab in 2004.

Farak is charged with two counts of Tampering with Evidence, one count of possession of a Class A Substance, and one count of Possession of a Class B Substance.
She will be arraigned on Tuesday morning in Eastern Hampshire District Court.

According to Coakley, the lab has been temporarily shut down to continue with the investigation. All lab personnel will work at the state crime lab in Sudbury until further notice.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan issued this statement about the situation Sunday:

“We are deeply disturbed by the allegations that a chemist at the Amherst Lab not only breached internal protocols, but also apparently engaged in criminal conduct. Our Office first learned of this incident on Friday, January 18, 2013, at which time Massachusetts State Police personnel (including members of the Detectives Unit assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office) responded to the Lab and commenced an investigation. We promptly notified the Attorney General’s Office of the alleged breach of protocols and potential criminal conduct, and they assumed jurisdiction over the matter Friday evening. Consequently, this Office cannot comment on any of the specifics of the investigation, and all further inquiries should be directed to the Attorney General’s Office.

“Our Office has already commenced an internal assessment of how many criminal prosecutions, both past and present, may be jeopardized by this chemist’s alleged wrongdoing. If any cases are discovered in which the integrity of the drug evidence may have been compromised, we will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that justice is done.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Amherst Crime Lab

The State Crime Lab in Amherst is housed on the UMass campus.

AG Martha Coakley address members of the media Sunday morning in Boston.

AG Martha Coakley address members of the media Sunday morning in Boston.

 

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