FDLE chemist accused of stealing evidence arrested



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The chemist accused of stealing prescription drugs from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Pensacola crime lab was arrested Tuesday and has bonded out of jail.

This week, Joseph Graves was charged with grand theft, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and nine counts of trafficking in illegal drugs.

His bond was set at $290,000.

On Monday, investigators planned to start the long process of evaluating hundreds of criminal cases going back at least seven years following this weekend’s bombshell announcement.

It could present problems for prosecutors throughout the state, who have just begun to understand the depth of this breach.

The cases span 35 counties, and officials with FDLE told Channel 9 that cases in Lake, Marion, Osceola and Sumter counties could be affected.

The Lake County sheriff's office has no idea how many if any of its cases are affected.

"We're not entirely sure yet. We haven't been contacted as far as what cases are potentially have been affected so we'll know more once FDLE lets us know what cases they're looking at,” said an officer with the Lake County’s Sheriff’s Office.

Over the weekend, FDLE officials held a media briefing announcing the investigation.

Graves worked on nearly 2,600 cases in 35 Florida counties.

According to officials, the evidence theft problems were first discovered in Escambia County.

"We have identified several dozen evidence submissions where prescription drugs were substituted with over-the-counter medications," said FDLE Commissioner Jerry Bailey.

Graves has worked at FDLE’s Pensacola lab since 2006 and submitted his resignations letter Monday.

He will likely face criminal charges and has hired a lawyer according to officials.

WFTV’s legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said lawyers representing clients whose cases were investigated by the other chemists at the FDLE’s Pensacola drug lab are sure to be questioning the results of their cases now too.

"Cases that you may consider a slam dunk are now in jeopardy. Cases that have been prosecuted successfully, they likewise may be in jeopardy for a reversal and a dismissal," Sheaffer said.

That could involve questioning all lab workers there under oath and demanding the evidence be retested.

This is not the first problem for FDLE. 

In December, Channel 9 reported on how the state crime lab was backlogged with evidence still waiting to be processed. Nearly 3,000 cases were months behind schedule.

The FDLE crime lab director said 70 percent of its staff retired, and that's why they were behind.

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