As Massachusetts continues to grapple with the Annie Dookhan scandal, a second crime lab chemist has been arrested and will face charges relating to evidence tampering and drug possession. Sonja Farak, a 35-year-old Northampton woman who worked at the Amherst lab, allegedly substituted real drugs with counterfeit drugs to support a suspected drug habit. The lab will close temporarily.
According to Attorney General Martha Coakley, the “drugs were tested, they were tested fairly. The certificates were not impeached in any way, but we allege… that the drugs were then taken and in her possession.” Coakley claims that this case is not connected with the Dookhan scandal because the “motives are completely opposite” and because Dookhan and Farak exhibited different behaviors. Prosecutors believe that the drugs were for personal use and that there was no distribution or intent to distribute. Supervisors at the lab discovered a discrepancy in inventory and contacted state police. Farak previously worked at the Jamaica Plain lab. She will be arraigned in Eastern Hampshire district court. District Attorney David Sullivan issued a statement on Sunday indicating that his office is assessing the number of cases that may have been compromised by the chemist’s wrongdoing.
Police interviewed Farak in connection with the Dookhan scandal on September 12, 2012. Police reports indicate that Farak worked with Dookhan in Jamaica Plain before Farak started working at the Amherst lab. Farak told police that they worked on some cases together and found Dookhan to be friendly. She told police that she never noticed Dookhan doing anything improper and that she had no knowledge of anyone in the lab performing analytical procedures improperly. Farak never reported any wrongdoing in the lab during her career.
Even if, as Coakley has claimed, the Farak case is different from the Dookhan case in terms of motive, it seems to reveal that the Dookhan investigation is not being conducted as thoroughly as it should be. While police interviewed Farak about Dookhan, they apparently failed to look into Farak’s own history. It is also troubling that lab supervisors failed to notice that an employee was suffering from a heroin and cocaine addiction. One would think that supervisors in most lines of work would notice if an employee was showing up to the job while on, or while withdrawing from, heroin and cocaine. The fact that Farak’s apparent drug problem went undetected for some time is a further indication of a lack of oversight in our state’s drug labs. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is critical to speak with a Massachusetts defense attorney if you have a pending or closed drug case.