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Police: Lab Analyst Said He Knew He Was In Trouble

Police: Lab Analyst Said He Knew He Was In Trouble

By: Andy Alcock  – Email | WCTV.Tv
Posted: Fri 6:15 PM, Feb 07, 2014

Updated By: Andy Alcock

February 7, 2014, 6pm

The opening of an evidence envelope in Tallahassee led to the arrest of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement chemist.

Court records show a Leon County case was key in the arrest of FDLE chemist Joseph Graves.

Two children younger than 7 years old were found alone in a Leon County home in August.

Sheriff’s deputies also found cocaine, meth, hydrocodone and two firearms all within reach.

The children’s mother, 23 year old Santana Mitchell and 27 year old Fred Cromartie were arrested and charged with multiple crimes.

Graves was scheduled to testify against Cromartie at his trial last Friday.

But after FDLE agents became aware of missing prescription pain pills in some Pensacola cases, the agents came to Tallahassee.

They opened an evidence bag supposed to contain five prescription pain pills in Cromartie’s case.

Instead they found four pills of over the counter medication.

“We had to continue that case because of the evidence in the case, so it’s going to have a far reaching impact,” State Attorney Willie Meggs told us on Monday.

Court records show that evidence was the tipping point leading to Graves’ arrest.

They state when an FDLE investigator confronted Graves about the evidence envelope in the Cromartie case, he said he had back problems and said “I know I am in trouble.”

Graves faces 22 felony charges.

They include one count of grand theft of a controlled substance, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and 9 counts of trafficking in illegal drugs including the prescription pain killers morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone.

Now FDLE is looking at all the cases Graves investigated, some 2600 in 35 counties.

According to court records, the 32 year old Graves went by the street name Joey.

Following his arrest on Tuesday, Graves posted bond that same day and has been released from jail.


Associated Press News Release By MELISSA NELSON-GABRIEL

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Documents show a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analyst told investigators he had problems with his back and knew he was in trouble when confronted about hundreds of narcotics pills missing from sealed evidence containers.

The information comes from an affidavit released Wednesday morning detailing the evidence against Joseph Graves. Graves was released from the Escambia County Jail late Tuesday on a $290,000 bond hours after his arrest on charges of grand theft, tampering with evidence and drug trafficking.

Investigators are reviewing about 2,600 cases from around the state processed by Graves at the Pensacola lab. Prosecutors allege Graves stole the narcotics after replacing them with over-the-counter allergy, aspirin, laxatives and homeopathic pills. Experts say the allegations of evidence tampering could create a massive headache for Florida courts.


Associated Press News Release

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida crime lab analyst accused of stealing and selling painkillers and other drugs that he was supposed to be testing as evidence has been released from jail on bond.

Joseph Graves was released from the Escambia County jail on a $290,000 bond Tuesday night. Because he was released, he won’t appear in court Wednesday as previously scheduled. There was no word on when the next court date would be scheduled.

Graves was arrested Tuesday, a day after he resigned from his position at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab in Pensacola. He is 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.

He’s accused of selling oxycodone, morphine and hydromorphone.

Associated Press News Release

Updated: February 4, 2014, 8:30pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a former Florida crime lab analyst is under arrest on charges that he stole and sold prescription pills seized as evidence in criminal cases.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that Joseph Graves was arrested Tuesday. It comes a day after the chemist resigned from his job at a Pensacola lab that tests drug evidence.

Investigators say Graves replaced painkillers he was testing as evidence with non-prescription pills. He is charge with then selling the painkillers.

Graves began working for the department in 2005 and has handled about 2,600 cases, most of which are drug related. Evidence he handled came from 80 law enforcement agencies from 35 counties. Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey has said hundreds of drug cases might now be compromised.


News Release: FDLE

Updated: February 4, 2014, 6:45pm

PENSACOLA, Fla. – Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, working with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, arrested former Pensacola crime laboratory chemist Joseph Graves on charges of grand theft, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and nine counts of trafficking in illegal drugs.  Investigators believe Graves, while processing drug cases, replaced prescription pain pills with over-the-counter medications.

“The actions of Joseph Graves are disgraceful.  FDLE is working with State Attorneys’ Offices statewide to ensure he is held accountable for his actions,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.  “I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our FDLE members who are working swiftly and diligently responding to this situation.”

Graves was arrested at the Escambia County Jail at approximately 6:30 EST, and bond was set at $290,000. In January, in conjunction with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney William Eddins’ Office, FDLE began an investigation into missing prescription pain pills from the evidence room at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators determined that each case with missing drugs had been analyzed by Graves.  Graves was relieved of duty on Jan. 31.

He became a crime lab analyst in Dec. 2005, working in the Pensacola crime laboratory, and was promoted to supervisor in July 2009.

FDLE teams are inspecting evidence from all cases handled by Graves between 2006 and present to confirm cases potentially compromised. He worked nearly 2,600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies spanning 35 counties and 12 judicial circuits.

The Office of the State Attorney, 1st Judicial Circuit William Eddins will prosecute this case.

The investigation is ongoing.  Additional charges are possible.


A Florida Department of Law Enforcement chemist has resigned as an evidence tampering case against him is progressing.

Pensacola crime lab analyst supervisor Joseph Graves is being investigated for possible drug evidence theft.

The investigation has already postponed one high profile trial in Tallahassee.

Two children younger than 7 years old were found alone in a Leon County home in August.

Sheriff’s deputies also found cocaine, meth, hydrocodone and two firearms all within reach.

The children’s mother, 23 year old Santana Mitchell and 27 year old Fred Cromartie were arrested and charged with multiple crimes.

Cromartie’s trial was scheduled to begin last Friday.

“We had to continue that case because of the evidence in the case,” said State Attorney Willie Meggs.

Meggs says the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told him Thursday FDLE Chemist Joseph Graves is being investigated for stealing drug case evidence and in some cases, replacing prescription drugs with over the counter medicine.

Graves handled evidence in the Mitchell and Cromartie cases.

On Saturday, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey was asked if the evidence breach could result in pending cases being dropped and convicted criminals being released.

“It certainly can,” Bailey said.

“I don’t think we’re dealing with any innocent people,” said Meggs. “But we may be dealing with people who will be found not guilty,” he said.

Meggs says he’ll look at all the cases Graves worked in his district.

They include Leon, Gadsden, Franklin and Wakulla Counties.

They’re 4 of the 35 counties where FDLE is sending teams of investigators to look at cases the chemist worked.

Meggs believes part of the problem is FDLE budget cuts closed part the agency’s Tallahassee lab.

He says, as a result, they’ve been sending drug cases to Pensacola since October.

It’s the same lab where Graves worked.

“The fact that the lab is spread too thin I think is a contributing factor,” Meggs said.

An FDLE spokeswoman says the Tallahassee lab was partially shut down because there wasn’t enough work load to justify keeping it open.

Graves, who was on paid leave, turned in his resignation letter Monday.

In the final line of his three sentence letter, he writes, “Please forward any money owed to me immediately.”


Hundreds of Florida drug cases in more than half the counties may have been compromised.

It started with a problem in Pensacola.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators were alerted when drug evidence was missing.

And then they found dozens of cases where prescription drugs were replaced with over the counter medicine.

FDLE determined it all pointed to one of their lab chemists.

“It could be personal use, it could be trafficking, it could be each of those, we don’t know,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Now FDLE is investigating all 2600 drug cases the chemist has worked since 2006.

They involve 80 law enforcement agencies and more than half, 35 of Florida’s 67 counties.

A look at a map of the counties shows nearly all of the panhandle could have affected cases.

Only Liberty and Jefferson counties in our Florida viewing area are not included.

“Our first priority is to find out exactly what happened in this particular case and work with the state attorneys to hold this person criminally accountable,” said Bailey.

FDLE is in the process of contacting law enforcement agencies around the state about this evidence breach.

A spokesman tells us the Tallahassee Police Department has already been contacted about possibly compromised cases.

“Because of this breach, we have a lot of work to do to restore the confidence of our colleagues and of the Florida public,” said Bailey.

Beginning Monday, FDLE teams will be sent around the state to go through the potentially compromised cases.

Bailey says it’s possible current drug cases under investigation could be dropped and past drug convictions could be overturned.

The chemist under investigation isn’t being identified because he hasn’t been charged yet.

He’s currently on paid leave until then.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has offered help from the statewide prosecution office with the investigation.

Bailey says FDLE will review its policies to try to make sure this type of problem doesn’t happen again.


A Florida Department of Law Enforcement chemist is under investigation for possibly compromising hundreds of drug cases.

Last week, FDLE, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney William Eddins’ Office in Pensacola began investigating missing prescription pills from the evidence room at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

The missing drugs had been replaced with over the counter medicine.

On Thursday, investigators determined each case with missing drugs had been analyzed by one chemist in FDLE’s Pensacola lab.

The chemist is now under criminal investigation and has been relieved of duty.

FDLE is reviewing nearly 2600 cases the chemist worked since he started investigating drug cases in 2006.

Those cases span 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties, including Leon County.

A Tallahassee Police spokesman says FDLE has informed TPD some of its cases may have been compromised.

On Monday, an FDLE team will be sent to the impacted agencies to inspect all evidence handled by the chemist to confirm potentially compromised cases.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey says it’s possible some drug convictions could be overturned.

The chemist’s name hasn’t been released because he hasn’t been charged yet.

Bailey says the chemist has hired an attorney.


News Release: FDLE Press Office

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey will hold a news conference Saturday regarding evidence tampering within FDLE’s Pensacola lab.

The news conference details are as follows:

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014
  • Time: 11 a.m. EST – 11:30 a.m. EST
  • Location: FDLE Headquarters, 2331 Phillips Road, Tallahassee, FL 32308

 

Doors open at 10 a.m.

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